The Justice Department on Monday unveiled sweeping charges against Chinese telecom firm Huawei, several subsidiaries and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, accusing the company of stealing trade secrets, obstructing justice and helping banks evade sanctions on Iran.
Huawei has always been considered a cybersecurity risk by USA authorities.
An indictment partially unsealed by the Justice Department accused Meng, Huawei, its affiliate in Iran, and a subsidiary in the United States of a long-running scheme to help banks evade USA sanctions on Iran.
US-China trade talks are set to resume shortly in Washington, although Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the two cases are "wholly separate" from the trade negotiations.
During a press conference on Monday, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said Huawei had made a "concerted effort" to steal information stored on a T-Mobile phone-testing robot called "Tappy". "China should be concerned about criminal activities by Chinese companies - and China should take action".
Prosecutors accuse Huawei of a long-running scheme, which started in 2007, to deceive numerous global banks and the US government regarding the company's business activities in Iran, a DOJ press release stated.
The day of reckoning has come for Huawei, as the U.S. Justice Department has unsealed a 13-count indictment against the world's largest telecommunications equipment manager.
The Department of Justice also announced 10 additional charges of wire fraud, trade theft and obstruction of justice against two other Huawei executives who it alleged tried to steal trade secrets. The technology, called "Tappy", mimicked human fingers and was used to test smartphones in T-mobile's lab in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington.
Secretary Nielsen said that Huawei's behaviour wasn't "just illegal but also detrimental to the national security of the US" and that the U.S. would "not tolerate a regime that supports terrorism". The case strained Chinese relations with both the United States and Canada. A Chinese court also overturned another Canadian drug-trafficking suspect's 15-year jail term and sentenced him to death.
David Martin, Meng's lawyer in Canada, didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment. "I'd also like to thank our law enforcement partners in Canada for their continued and invaluable assistance to the United States in law enforcement matters like this one".
Since Meng's arrest, multiple Canadians have been arrested or detained in China, including a former diplomat and a businessman who have been accused of spying.