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Huawei’s office building at its research and development centre at Dongguan in south China's Guangdong province. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

US indictment against Huawei shows FBI interviewed founder in 2007, reviewed text from Meng Wanzhou’s electronic device

  • FBI interviewed Huawei’s founder, identified as ‘Individual-1’ in New York in 2007
  • US reviewed text from Meng Wanzhou’s electronic device when she arrived at JFK airport in 2014

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed the founder of Huawei Technologies in New York in 2007 about the company’s dealings with Iran, and reviewed a file from an electronic device belonging to its chief financial officer in 2014, according to an indictment filed by the US against the Chinese telecommunications company.

The 25-page indictment, with parts redacted, said that Huawei’s founder, identified as “Individual-1” and “founder of Huawei”, told FBI agents in July 2007 then that the company was compliant with and “did not conduct any activity in violation of US export laws”. Ren Zhengfei is the founder of Huawei.

“Individual-1” also told agents that Huawei had not dealt directly with any Iranian company and he believed Huawei had sold equipment to a third party that was possibly in Egypt, which then sold equipment to Iran, according to the indictment.

The statements by “Individual-1” in the interview with FBI agents was listed as an overt act – known as an action that can be introduced as evidence of participation in a crime – that Huawei committed while trying to defraud the US.

Huawei Technologies denied the allegations laid out in the nearly two dozen charges filed by the US, which content that the company stole trade secrets or violated US sanctions against doing business with Iran. Its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, is in Canada awaiting extradition proceedings to the US.

FBI director Christopher Wray speaks at a press conference announcing an indictment against Huawei on Monday. Photo: Bloomberg

Acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said at a press conference in Washington announcing the indictment against Huawei that the “charges in today’s indictments are only allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

In the indictment, Meng had an electronic device when she entered the US in early 2014, arriving at John. F Kennedy International Airport. The US found a file that may have been deleted on the device, with text that said that “Huawei’s operation in Iran comports with the laws, regulations and sanctions as required by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union”.

The text also said that Skycom was one of the agents for Huawei products and services, although the company later turned out to be an unofficial subsidiary of Huawei that the company was using to conduct business in Iran, according to the indictment.

Huawei did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on Ren’s interview with the FBI and Meng’s electronic device.

“Huawei is disappointed to learn of the charges brought against the company today,” the Shenzhen-based company said in a statement. “After Ms. Meng’s arrest, the company sought an opportunity to discuss the Eastern District of New York investigation with the Justice Department, but the request was rejected without explanation.”

“Huawei denies that it or its subsidiary or affiliate have committed any of the asserted violations of US law set forth in each of the indictments, is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng, and believes the US courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion,” according to the statement.

The company did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on the FBI interview and Meng’s electronic device.

The US also contends in its indictment that in 2017, Huawei and its US subsidiary became aware of the criminal investigation against the company and made efforts to move witnesses with knowledge about Huawei's Iran-based business back to mainland China, where they would be beyond the jurisdiction of the US government. The US also said that company purportedly destroyed and concealed evidence of its Iran-based business.