Huawei pleads not guilty to US bank fraud charges

Huawei is accused of using Skycom to violate a decades-old ban on doing business with Iran. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK • Huawei Technologies has pleaded not guilty in New York to federal charges that the company defrauded at least four banks by concealing business dealings in Iran in violation of US sanctions.

The plea on Thursday by China's largest smartphone maker and a US subsidiary, Huawei Device USA, marks the formal start of the company's defence in the US case.

Huawei lawyer James Cole, part of a legal team that includes two former prosecutors, declined to comment further after the hearing in the federal court in Brooklyn.

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, who is also charged in the case, was not in court. She remains free on bail in Vancouver while she fights extradition to the United States, arguing that the charges are politically motivated.

Meng was arrested by the Canadian authorities in December at the request of US prosecutors. In a 13-count indictment unsealed on Jan 28, prosecutors allege that Huawei employees, including Meng, lied since 2007 about the company's relationship with Skycom Tech, which operated in Iran.

Huawei and Meng falsely claimed Skycom was not an affiliate, according to the government, which filed charges including conspiracy, wire fraud and bank fraud.

Huawei is accused of using Skycom to violate a decades-old ban on doing business with Iran, including repeatedly lying to the US and even to Congress regarding whether its business in Iran violated any American sanctions. Skycom is also a defendant in the case.

Meng's father, Mr Ren Zhengfei, founded Huawei and is a confidant of China's President Xi Jinping.

The case is an unprecedented bid by the American authorities to hold a senior Chinese executive accountable for sanctions violations, though it also threatens to undermine talks designed to end a trade war between the US and China. Meng could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted in the US.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline Huawei pleads not guilty to US bank fraud charges. Subscribe