United States charges Chinese tech giant Huawei, top executive and two subsidiaries

The indictment alleges that Huawei, two affiliated companies, and its chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou committed fraud and conspiracy in connection with deals in Iran.

The Justice Department announced criminal charges Monday against Huawei Technologies Co., the world's largest communications equipment manufacturer, and one of its top executives - a move likely to intensify trade tensions between the US and China.

A second case alleges the company stole technology from T Mobile used to test smart phone durability. Huawei has said that the two companies settled their disputes in 2017.

The White House is preparing an executive order to declare a national emergency that would bar USA companies from using telecommunications equipment made by China's Huawei and ZTE.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Saturday he had removed John McCallum for saying that Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou could make a strong argument against being sent to the United States.

The cases "expose Huawei's brazen and persistent actions to exploit American companies and financial institutions, and to threaten the free and fair global marketplace", Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said at a press conference in Washington announcing the charges.

Acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker also confirmed that the department planned to file for extradition of Meng, who was detained by Canadian authorities at the request of the US in December.

Huawei is one of China's "national champions", an US$8.4 billion firm promoted and protected by the ruling Communist Party.

Huawei's Meng is expected to be on the receiving end for her alleged role in helping her company cover up sanctions violations related to Iran. Meng is out on bail in Vancouver and is due to back in court February 6 as she awaits extradition proceedings to begin.

Meng is now in Vancouver, staying in one of her family's homes, as she awaits a decision from a Canadian court on whether she will be extradited to the United States. Apart from the trade dispute, the USA and China are also competing for control over 5G infrastructure, which both countries believe is key to their economic and military success.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will take part in the discussions, along with the president's economic adviser Larry Kudlow and trade adviser Peter Navarro.

The 23 charges filed on Monday threatened to escalate tensions between Washington and Beijing just 48 hours before senior Chinese officials were due to fly to the White House for a new round of trade talks.

  • David Armstrong