US accuses Huawei of scheme to steal trade secrets in new charges

US had previously accused Chinese tech giant of bank fraud

The U.S. government on Thursday filed new charges against Huawei, accusing the Chinese tech giant of a scheme to steal the intellectual property of U.S. companies.

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A U.S. district court in Brooklyn filed the indictment against Huawei after The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that U.S. officials have intelligence to prove China has backdoor access to the tech giant's mobile devices.

The document alleges "a pattern of obstruction" to hide illicit activities from U.S. investigators and adds new racketeering conspiracy counts. The U.S. had previously accused the company of bank fraud.

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"Since at least in or about 2000 through the date of this Superseding Indictment, [Huawei] and others executed a scheme to operate and grow the worldwide business of [Huawei] and its parents, global affiliates and subsidiaries through the deliberate and repeated misappropriation of intellectual property of companies headquartered or with offices in the United States for commercial use," the indictment reads.

(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The indictment alleges that the Chinese tech giant "launched a formal policy instituting a bonus program to reward employees who obtained confidential information from competitors."

It claims Huawei misrepresented its ownership of an Iranian affiliate called Skycom and violated Department of Treasury sanctions that restrict business operations in Iran. Despite repeated denials to U.S. financial institutions, Huawei "was involved in numerous projects in North Korea" beginning in 2008, the indictment alleges.

The company is also accused of installing surveillance equipment that enabled Iran to spy on protesters during 2009 anti-government demonstrations there.

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Huawei sought to "destroy and conceal evidence" of its Iran-based business when it learned in 2017 that the U.S. government had opened a criminal investigation, according to the document.

The tech giant responded to the indictment in a Thursday statement, calling the allegations "unfounded and unfair."

"This new indictment is part of the Justice Department’s attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement," Huawei said.

"These new charges are without merit and are based are based largely on recycled civil lawsuits from last 20 years that have been previously settled, litigated and in some cases, rejected by federal judges and juries. The government will not prevail on its charges which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair," the tech company added.

The case comes as the Trump administration is raising national security concerns about Huawei and lobbying Western allies against including the company in wireless, high-speed networks.

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The administration strongly opposed the United Kingdom's decision to allow Huawei to help build limited parts of its 5G wireless network.

In a Thursday "Mornings with Maria" interview, Huawei Technologies Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy denied U.S. intelligence alleging China has backdoor access to the tech giant's mobile devices.

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"We can prove that our equipment is not subject to any influence for the Chinese government, and we can prove that our employees are not subject to the Communist government," Purdy told FOX Business' Maria Bartiromo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.