U.S. lawyers prosecuting Huawei Technologies Co. for alleged Iran sanctions violations said the company shouldn’t be allowed to share more than 21,000 pages of “sensitive” evidence in the People’s Republic of China because it could be “misused.”
Prosecutors have classified the documents as “sensitive discovery material” that can’t be shown to anyone beyond a group of U.S. defense lawyers and argue the material must remain in the country. China “has shown a willingness to take actions that appear designed to defend Huawei from allegations in this case,” according to prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue in Brooklyn, New York.
Huawei, one of the world’s largest makers of smartphones and networking equipment, and Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou have been fighting charges filed in 2019 that they evaded U.S. sanctions on Iran and lied to U.S. authorities. Prosecutors in February unveiled a revised indictment that added racketeering charges tied to allegations the company conspired to steal intellectual property from half a dozen U.S. firms.
The company and lawyers for Meng, who is in Vancouver fighting extradition to the U.S., deny wrongdoing.
Prosecutors warned that if the information is released outside the U.S., it “could fall into the wrong hands.” They cited a recent New York Times report that five former Huawei employees were jailed by Chinese authorities after they engaged in a WeChat conversation in which one said he could “prove Huawei sold [equipment] in Iran.”
“If true, the allegations in this news article indicate that the People’s Republic of China government may take actions to intervene on behalf of Huawei in the context of this criminal case,” they said in a letter filed late Monday.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the filing.
The U.S. says it has already shared more than five million pages of evidence with Huawei’s American defense lawyers and that only about 12% of them were designated as sensitive discovery material.
Huawei says it needs to show the material to people in China to help defend itself against the charges, saying the prohibition on sharing the documents “severely handicaps” it in preparing its defense.
A 2012 report by the House Intelligence Committee warned that Huawei seeks to “control the market for sensitive equipment and infrastructure that could be used for spying and other malicious purposes” and that it was “unwilling to explain its relationship with the Chinese government.” More recently, President Donald Trump has made Huawei a target.
The company says the U.S. has vilified it for political purposes.