Brooklyn, NY – A 13-count indictment was unsealed earlier today in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, charging four defendants, all of whom are affiliated with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (Huawei), the world’s largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, with headquarters in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and operations around the world.
The indicted defendants include Huawei and two Huawei subsidiaries — Huawei Device USA Inc. (Huawei USA) and Skycom Tech Co. Ltd. (Skycom) — as well as Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wanzhou Meng (Meng).
The defendants Huawei and Skycom are charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate and substantive violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Huawei and Huawei USA are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice related to the Grand Jury investigation in the Eastern District of New York. Meng is charged with bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.
The charges in this case relate to a long-running scheme by Huawei, its CFO, and other employees to deceive numerous global financial institutions and the United States government regarding Huawei’s business activities in Iran. Beginning in 2007, Huawei employees misrepresented Huawei’s relationship to an unofficial subsidiary in Iran called Skycom, and as a result falsely claimed that Huawei had only limited operations in Iran and that Huawei did not violate U.S. or other laws or regulations related to Iran. Most significantly, after news publications in late 2012 and 2013 disclosed that Huawei operated Skycom as an unofficial subsidiary in Iran and that Meng had served on the board of directors of Skycom, Huawei employees, and in particular Meng, continued to lie to Huawei’s banking partners about Huawei’s relationship with Skycom, falsely claiming that Huawei had sold its interest in Skycom to an unrelated third party in 2007 and also that Skycom was merely Huawei’s local business partner in Iran. In reality, Skycom was Huawei’s longstanding Iranian subsidiary, and Huawei orchestrated the 2007 sale to appear as an arm’s length transaction between two unrelated parties although Huawei actually controlled the company that purchased Skycom.
As part of this scheme to defraud, Meng personally made a presentation in August 2013 to an executive of one of Huawei’s major banking partners in which she repeatedly lied about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom.
Huawei relied on its global banking partners for banking services that included processing U.S.-dollar-denominated transactions through the United States. U.S. laws and regulations generally prohibited these banks from providing U.S.-dollar transactions related to Iran through the United States. The banks could have faced civil or criminal penalties for processing transactions that violated U.S. laws or regulations. Relying on the repeated misrepresentations by Huawei, banking partners continued their banking relationships with Huawei. One banking partner cleared more than $100 million worth of Skycom-related transactions through the United States between 2010 and 2014.
As a further part of this scheme to defraud, Huawei and its principals repeatedly lied to U.S. government authorities about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom in submissions to the U.S. government, and in responses to government inquiries. For example, Huawei provided false information to the U.S. Congress regarding whether Huawei’s business in Iran violated any U.S. law. Similarly, as indicated in the indictment, in 2007 — months before Huawei orchestrated the purported sale of Skycom to another Huawei-controlled entity — Huawei’s founder falsely stated to FBI agents that Huawei did not have any direct dealings with Iranian companies and that Huawei operated in compliance with all U.S. export laws.
After one of Huawei’s major global banking partners (identified as Financial Institution 1 in the indictment) decided to exit the relationship in 2017 because of Huawei’s risk profile, Huawei allegedly made additional misrepresentations to several of its remaining banking partners in an effort to maintain and expand those relationships. Huawei and its principals are alleged to have repeatedly and falsely claimed that Huawei had decided to separate from Financial Institution 1, and not that Financial Institution 1 had decided to cause the separation. On the basis of these misrepresentations, those other banking partners continued their banking relationships with Huawei.
In 2017, when Huawei became aware of the government’s investigation, Huawei and its subsidiary Huawei USA tried to obstruct the investigation by making efforts to move witnesses with knowledge about Huawei’s Iran-based business to the PRC, and beyond the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, and by destroying and concealing evidence of Huawei’s Iran-based business that was located in the United States.
In December 2018, Canadian authorities apprehended Meng in Vancouver pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant issued under Canadian law. The U.S. government is seeking Meng’s extradition to the United States.