Beyond the political luggage generated in the midst of the protracted U.S.-China trade dispute, the American import ban that Huawei has to deal with is laden with doubt from tech critics who chide D.C. with inhibiting innovation in mobile phones. Lest we forget, though, that the Department of Justice is pursuing the Chinese tech behemoth for stealing trade secrets and fraud in relation to Iran sanctions breaches. Now, we're learning of leaked documents that tie Huawei to business conducted in another adversarial country: North Korea.
A former Huawei employee and other sources shared multiple files with The Washington Post that shows the company to be a contractor for another Chinese firm, Panda International Information Technology, that were tasked with projects in North Korea.
A Huawei price schedule from 2008 specifically lists Panda as the direct seller and the end client as CHEO, the Egyptian-North Korean joint venture operating the nation's wireless carrier, Koryolink. The two had agreed to a 3G (UMTS) network build contract valued at over half a million euros. Other documents show that Panda has had multiple projects with Koryolink running as late as 2016.
The Post reports that the Commerce Department opened a probe into Huawei's North Korean dealings in 2016. While it is still an open case, the department never publicly concluded that there was a link. It declined to comment on the documents.
Huawei denied that it currently has business in North Korea. It did not specify whether it had any North Korean clients in the past nor did it confirm or deny the validity of the shared documents. Panda Group, parent to Panda International, declined to comment.
At the moment, that means that all eyes will remain on the Department of Justice lawsuits on the Iran sanctions fraud charges and the trade secrets charge.