Huawei Technologies pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to racketeering charges filed last month by US prosecutors who accused the Chinese telecommunications giant of a 20-year pattern of corporate espionage.
The company had called the charges “unfounded and unfair” before entering its plea in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday.
Huawei and its Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou already were facing charges that they evaded US sanctions on Iran and lied to American authorities.
Prosecutors in February unveiled a revised indictment that seeks a stiff punishment under federal racketeering law for the company’s alleged conspiracy to steal intellectual property from a half-dozen US firms over the years.
The latest indictment also accused Huawei of lying about its business in North Korea and helping Iran track protesters during the 2009 anti-government demonstrations in that country.
The escalation of the criminal case comes as the Trump administration continues to brand Huawei a threat to national security while the company competes in the global battle for supremacy in fifth-generation wireless technology, or 5G.
The charges are likely to increase tensions between Beijing and Washington, which has accused Huawei of spying for the Chinese government, even as the company won a brief reprieve from a proposed ban on buying parts in the US.
The revised indictment does not name the businesses from which Huawei allegedly stole intellectual property. But details of the allegations match descriptions of Cisco Systems, Motorola, T-Mobile US and Cnex Labs. Several related cases involving Huawei, including one in Seattle and another in Brooklyn, are also pending.
Huawei has said the new accusations rest on “recycled civil disputes from the last 20 years that have been previously settled, litigated, and in some cases, rejected by federal judges and juries”.
The indictment is “part of the Justice Department’s attempt to irrevocably damage Huawei’s reputation and its business for reasons related to competition rather than law enforcement”.
Meanwhile, Meng, the eldest daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, continues to fight extradition from Canada over charges that she helped the company violate US economic sanctions against Iran. She argues that the charges are politically motivated.