Chinese spies allegedly tried to obstruct Huawei investigation

The Justice Department has announced charges against two Chinese intelligence officers, accusing them of attempting to obstruct a US investigation into the telecommunications giant Huawei.

In charging documents made public on Monday, defendants Guochum He and Zheng Wang were accused of working on behalf of the Chinese government to obtain confidential information and trial evidence related to a Justice Department investigation into Huawei. US law enforcement officials declined to name the company, but both CNN and The Wall Street Journal reported that the case concerns Huawei, which is the subject of an ongoing trade secrets prosecution.

“This case exposes the interconnection between PRC intelligence officers & Chinese companies, and it demonstrates, once again, why such companies — especially in the telecommunications industry — should not be trusted to securely handle our sensitive personal data and communications,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during Monday’s press conference.

In the complaint, the US claims He and Wang attempted to recruit a law enforcement employee to work on behalf of the Chinese government and obtain information related to the US’s ongoing investigation against Huawei in Brooklyn, New York. But the individual was actually operating as a “double agent” on behalf of the FBI, the DOJ said in a Monday press release.

In one instance, the employee gave the Chinese defendants a photo of a false classified document related to the Huawei case, the indictment said. The official received $41,000 in Bitcoin after delivering the document. The defendants repeatedly tried to bribe the employee with thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry.

“This was an egregious attempt by PRC intelligence officers to shield a PRC-based company from accountability and to undermine the integrity of our judicial system,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said during the press conference.

Over the last few years, the US has continued to crack down on Huawei, claiming that the company could pose a significant risk to US security and provide the Chinese government a backdoor into American user data. Last week, Axios reported that the Federal Communications Commission planned to expand its already hefty rules forbidding US companies from purchasing Huawei equipment and ban all sales of the company’s new devices.

Last year, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou entered a plea deal with the US to avoid potential charges of fraud and trade secret theft related to the New York investigation.