A Huawei executive has been charged and detained for allegedly conducting high-level espionage on behalf of a Chinese spy agency in Poland, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
In a report citing state-owned broadcasting corporation Telewizja Polska as its source, WSJ said Polish authorities have taken action against the sales director of Huawei’s local office in the country, who is a Chinese national.
Poland’s counter-intelligence agency reportedly searched the Huawei office, as well as the home of the executive and removed documents and electronic data.
A Huawei representative told WSJ: “Huawei is aware of the situation and we are looking into it.”
Although unnamed at this stage, the Huawei executive reportedly attended a top intelligence school in China and was the former employee of a Chinese consulate in Poland.
Poland’s Internal Security Agency also detained its former head of IT security, a Polish citizen, as part of the same investigation. The individual had knowledge of the inner workings of the government’s encrypted communications network, WSJ added. The person now works for Orange’s local business: officials also searched the operator’s offices, BBC News reported.
Both have been charged with espionage, which carries a prison sentence of up to ten years in prison.
The charge comes during growing international scrutiny of the Chinese vendor, with governments across the world expressing concern its equipment poses a threat to national security. The US, Australia and New Zealand have all banned Huawei from participating in 5G rollouts; Japan’s operators have said they will avoid the vendor; while others in Europe have suggested they could follow.
Huawei maintains its equipment is secure and has called on governments to provide evidence of alleged security threats.
US technology export challenge
In a separate development, Huawei could also be blocked from getting some technology developed at a US subsidiary back into its domestic market.
WSJ reported the vendor has been unable to export certain technologies developed at R&D unit Futurewei Technologies, after the US government indicated it would not renew the subsidiary’s export licence.
Citing security concerns, the US Department of Commerce said it intended to deny Futurewei Technologies’ application to renew the licence, a move which has been contested.
The software in question includes high-speed data transfer technology, which had an operating budget of more than $16 million, documents viewed by WSJ showed.
Although it is a blow, the unit continues to operate in the US as the majority of innovations Futurewei Technologies exports does not require a licence, added sources.
The R&D centre opened in 2011 and employs around 700 engineers and scientists.