LONDON – China’s Huawei Technologies, which for years has denied violating American trade sanctions on Iran, was directly involved in sending prohibited U.S. computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator, internal company records show.
Among more than 100 pages of documents related to Huawei projects, two packing lists dated December 2010 for goods destined for the Iranian carrier included equipment made by Hewlett-Packard Co.
Another Huawei document, dated two months later, stated, “Currently the equipment is delivered to Tehran, and waiting for the custom clearance.”
The packing lists and other internal documents, reported here for the first time, provide the strongest documentary evidence to date of Huawei’s involvement in alleged sanctions violations. They could bolster Washington’s campaign to check the power of Huawei, now the world’s leading telecommunications-equipment maker.
The United States is trying to persuade allies to avoid using the firm’s equipment in their next-generation 5G mobile telecommunications systems.
The newly obtained documents involve a multimillion-dollar telecommunications project in Iran that figures prominently in an ongoing criminal case that Washington has brought against the company and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.
The daughter of Huawei’s founder, Meng has been fighting extradition from Canada since her arrest in Vancouver in December 2018. Huawei and Meng have denied the charges, which include bank and wire fraud.
The documents, which aren’t cited in the criminal case, provide new details about Huawei’s role in providing an Iranian telecom carrier with numerous computer servers, switches and other equipment made by HP, as well as software made by other American companies, including Microsoft, Symantec and Novell.
A U.S. indictment alleges that Huawei and Meng participated in a fraudulent scheme to obtain prohibited U.S. goods and technology for Huawei’s Iran-based business and to move money out of Iran by deceiving Western banks. The indictment accuses Huawei and Meng of surreptitiously using an “unofficial subsidiary” in Iran called Skycom Tech to obtain the prohibited goods.
“Huawei could thus attempt to claim ignorance with respect to any illegal act committed by Skycom,” the indictment states.
Skycom, which Huawei has described as a local business partner in Iran, is named as a defendant. Records in Hong Kong, where Skycom was registered, show the firm was liquidated in June 2017.
On Wednesday, Huawei pleaded not guilty in a New York federal court to new charges in the case. The latest indictment accused the firm of conspiring to steal trade secrets from six U.S. technology companies over two decades, lying about its business in North Korea and helping Iran track anti-government protesters in 2009.
At an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, Thomas Green, a U.S. lawyer for Huawei, entered the not guilty plea on behalf of the company and three subsidiaries, including Futurewei Technologies Inc., its U.S.-based research arm.
The newly obtained records reviewed by Reuters show that another Chinese company, Panda International Information Technology Co., that isn’t named in the U.S. indictment was also involved in acquiring hardware and software for the Iranian project. Panda International has long-standing ties to Huawei and is controlled by a Chinese state-owned company.
The U.S. indictment also cites articles by Reuters in 2012 and 2013 that reported Skycom had offered in late 2010 to sell at least €1.3 million worth of embargoed HP computer equipment to Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran. MCI’s parent company is Telecommunication Co. of Iran. At the time, TCI was controlled by a consortium whose largest stakeholder was a company controlled by the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Another stakeholder was Setad, an organization controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Huawei said in 2012 that the HP goods were never delivered to Iran. But the newly obtained documents show Huawei was involved in sending at least some of the U.S. equipment to Iran. The documents are written in English, Chinese and Farsi.
One internal document showed that Huawei was deeply involved in the MCI expansion project, stating that MCI asked Huawei on Sept. 25, 2010, to start the project. “The equipment contract was signed,” the document states, without providing details.
The documents also include a “Bill of Quantity Quotation,” a 2010 proposal that listed the equipment needed for the project. It was produced by Huawei and includes HP equipment as well as server software made by Microsoft, Symantec and Novell.
The documents also include two packing lists that were dated Dec. 7 and 13, 2010, with Huawei’s logo at the top. The name “Huawei” also appears in the lists’ metadata — computer information about the documents’ creation.
The packing lists, which include some prohibited HP equipment, provided extensive details of 340 shipping cases, with ultimate destinations in Tehran, Shiraz and Mashhad.
The packing lists also include numerous HP servers, switches and disk arrays, as well as Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2000 software.
Among the records is a signed equipment contract between MCI and Panda International that included more than $10 million worth of equipment for the billing system project, although it doesn’t specify all of the gear. According to the contract, MCI was to pay Panda International through China Construction Bank’s branch in Shenzhen — the location of Huawei’s headquarters.
Panda International is controlled by China Electronics Corp., a state-owned tech company. According to Panda International’s website, Panda has a “long and deep history with Huawei” that began in 2007.
Sources said Huawei regularly used Panda International to ship equipment to customers in Iran and Syria.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Commerce added Panda International to its “Entity List” — a roster of companies effectively banned from doing business with U.S. firms. The department said Panda International may have attempted “to export items to destinations sanctioned by the United States.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.