By filing a racketeering charge against Huawei Technologies Co., U.S. federal prosecutors have unleashed a potent legal weapon in a multipronged and increasingly noisy American campaign against the Chinese technology giant.

Huawei engaged in a two-decade racketeering operation to steal intellectual property from U.S. technology companies, as well as conspiracies to launder money and obstruct justice, according to the indictment, unsealed Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. Those new counts added to earlier charges accusing Huawei of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and financial fraud.

Deploying the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) against the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer gives the Justice Department legal and psychological advantages, said former prosecutors.