The U.S. Department of Justice partially unsealed 10 indictments it had against Chinese technology company Huawei. It was returned by a grand jury on January 16, and is now being released publicly. This is only a month after the company’s CFO was detained in Canada. She still faces extradition to the U.S. What the DOJ now alleges is not pretty.
“The alleged conduct described in the indictment occurred from 2012 to 2014, and includes an internal Huawei announcement that the company was offering bonuses to employees who succeeded in stealing confidential information from other companies,” the agency writes in its release. It goes on to describe Huawei trying to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile.
Essentially, T-Mobile built a mobile phone testing robot called Tappy, which it granted limited access to Huawei after the two entered into a supply agreement. Huawei allegedly wasn’t happy with the access it got to Tappy, and instead reportedly sent unauthorized employees to T-Mobile’s lab to document and steal the robot’s technology.
“Huawei engineers violated confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements with T-Mobile by secretly taking photos of “Tappy,” taking measurements of parts of the robot, and in one instance, stealing a piece of the robot so that the Huawei engineers in China could try to replicate it,” writes the DOJ.
The entire indictment reads almost like a crime novel–unauthorized foreign engineers gaining access to a room containing secret technology. When found out, they were forced off the premises. Huawei also allegedly wrote an erroneous report about its actions to appease T-Mobile, once the American company caught the Chinese company on T-Mobile’s premises.
The DOJ says the FBI is currently investigating this case. It adds that, if found guilty, Huawei could be faced with a fine of up to $5 million. I reached out to Huawei for comment and will update this post if I hear back.
You can read the DOJ’s release here.