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HUAWEI executive arrested in Poland over spying allegations (Update: employee fired)
Update, 01/14/2019, 04:16 AM ET: HUAWEI has fired the employee recently arrested in Poland charged with spying for the Chinese government. According to CNN, HUAWEI said in a statement Saturday it had fired the employee, which China’s Polish embassy named as Wang Weijing, for bringing the firm into “disrepute.”
Wang was arrested alongside a Polish intelligence official last week for the alleged spying offences. Both have pleaded not guilty, reported CNN. Further, HUAWEI said in a statement that Wang’s “alleged actions have no relation to the company.”
It’s a quick move from the Chinese smartphone maker, given that the news made headlines only on Friday and Wang has not been proven guilty of anything. HUAWEI CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada in December at the behest of the U.S. government for apparently misleading multinational banks regarding transactions connected to Iran (something which could have affected U.S. sanctions). Meng, the daughter of HUAWEI’s founder Ren Zhengfei, has not been fired.
Previous coverage, 01/11/2019, 08:07 AM ET: A Huawei employee has been arrested in Poland for allegedly spying on the Chinese government’s behalf. Poland’s TVPInfo broke the news earlier today (via Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal) amid increasing tensions between the U.S. and China.
The employee, a Chinese national working as a sales director, was arrested alongside a former high-ranking official at Poland’s internal security agency.
Poland’s counterintelligence agency is believed to have searched HUAWEI’s Poland headquarters, a local Orange branch, and the houses of both suspects. They took “documents and electronic data” from HUAWEI’s office, said The Wall Street Journal.
The pair are set to remain in custody for at least three months and apparently face up to ten years in prison.
In an emailed statement sent earlier today, a HUAWEI spokesperson told us: “HUAWEI is aware of the situation, and we are looking into it. We have no comment for the time being. HUAWEI complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based.”
What’s the background?
HUAWEI has come under global scrutiny lately. As well as producing smartphones, the Chinese corporation develops mobile network infrastructure used in many countries, which some nations see as a potential security risk.
There is speculation the U.S. government will soon ban HUAWEI telecommunications equipment from being used in the nation over security concerns, while it also may call for EU nations to do the same. Australia and New Zealand have already banned the use of HUAWEI’s telecommunications equipment for their 5G networks. Japan is expected to announce a similar move soon.
Meanwhile, HUAWEI CFO Wanzhou Meng was arrested in Canada at the behest of the U.S. government last December.
Despite the allegations, HUAWEI has repeatedly denied involvement with the Chinese government on these matters.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated the former Polish security official was a HUAWEI employee. This was incorrect and we regret the error.