HUAWEI
The EU flag and a smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo are seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration taken January 29, 2020.
(Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

The United States Justice Department has filed charges against Huawei for racketeering and stealing trade secrets from American companies, the department announced on Thursday.

The charges now set the stage for another arena in US President Donald Trump's administration's legal fight against the Chinese telecoms giant. One of Huawei's top figures, Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, will be slapped with 16 counts of racketeering and conspiracy charges, the DOJ disclosed.

A federal indictment accused Huawei and its affiliates of a series of "racketeering activity" and stated the telcos had collaborated to steal trade information from six unnamed American companies. The stolen secrets included source codes and documents for cellular technology.

The indictment also charges Huawei of establishing its influence at the expense of other companies by copying intellectual property and then selling it around the world. From as early as 2000, the DOJ claims Huawei stole proprietary data about mobile antennas, internet routers, and misappropriated robotic technology.

A new overriding indictment said Huawei violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and filed additional charges alleging the tech firm's stealing of trade secrets from US companies.

The new charges add more pressure to Washington's campaign against the company, which is already prohibited from acquiring many US products and is considered by the White House as a threat to national security.

The Trump administration's escalation is also part of a broader attempt to clamp down on what it claims is a "pattern of Chinese espionage and theft" whose objective is to give Beijing a technological advantage.

On Monday, four officers of China's military were charged with hacking into Equifax, one of the country's biggest credit reporting organizations, and stealing personal information of about 145 million Americans in 2017. The new indictment goes beyond the DOJ's earlier accusations of trade-secret theft.

The new indictment, according to Huawei spokesperson Glenn Schloss, is part of the DOJ's attempt to "irrevocably damage Huawei's reputation" in relation to competition rather than law enforcement.

Schloss stressed that the charges have been previously settled and even rejected by federal judges. "The US will not prevail on these charges," the company official said.

The justice department also revealed new accusations against Huawei and its affiliates, alleging them of hiding their business in regions under European Union, US and United Nations sanctions. For instance, the charges allege that the Chinese tech firm concealed itself under codes "A2" and "A9" in internal records to refer to its business in North Korea and Iran.