Huawei: US prosecutors charge slew of Chinese nationals in unlawful influence crackdown

The charged Chinese nationals were allegedly trying to interfere with the prosecution of Huawei.
The charged Chinese nationals were allegedly trying to interfere with the prosecution of Huawei. Photo credit: Getty Images

US prosecutors charged two Chinese nationals with trying to obstruct the prosecution of China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, and four others with trying to spy for Beijing, in what they called a broad crackdown on unlawful influence efforts.

Prosecutors charged Chinese nationals Guochun He and Zheng Wang with trying to interfere in prosecution of an international telecommunications company. While court documents did not name the company, a person familiar with the investigation said they were trying to interfere with the prosecution of Huawei.

Federal prosecutors said they had brought charges against participants in three separate schemes, including a New Jersey intelligence campaign and an effort to harass a Chinese national into returning to China.

A spokesperson for Huawei could not be reached for comment on Monday. China's embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The Justice Department will not tolerate attempts by any foreign power to undermine the rule of law upon which our democracy is based," Attorney General Merrick Garland told a news conference.

Huawei was indicted in 2018 for allegedly misleading HSBC and other banks about its business in Iran, which is subject to US sanctions. In 2020, other charges were added to the case, including conspiring to steal trade secrets from six US technology companies and helping Iran track protesters during anti-government demonstrations in 2009.

The firm has pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors also unveiled charges against four Chinese nationals in what they called a long-running intelligence campaign.

The complaint against He and Wang alleges they tried to obtain confidential information concerning witnesses, trial evidence and any potential new charges the company could face.

To do that, it alleges they tried to recruit someone from a US law enforcement agency who they thought would help them spy for China.

The recruit, who is referred to only as "GE-1", was actually working as a double agent for the US under FBI supervision, the complaint said.

Since October 2021, He and Wang paid the recruit $14,000 plus $600 worth of jewelry, in exchange for what they believed was confidential information about the Justice Department's investigation and criminal prosecution of the company, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, He and Wang first started trying to access nonpublic information about the Justice Department's investigation when the company was initially charged in 2019.

But their activity escalated in the summer of 2021, with He asking GE-1 about the details of meetings with the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York as prosecutors were discussing preparations for the jury trial.

In response, GE-1 passed He a piece of paper that appeared to be marked as classified. That page purported to discuss a plan by federal investigators to arrest two of the company's China-based executives.

In exchange for that page, He paid GE-1 $41,000 in bitcoin, the complaint said.

Later that same year, GE-1 also passed along a second page that also purportedly discussed legal strategy, including the use of several cooperating witnesses in the prosecution.