China‘s Huawei Technologies acted to cover up its relationship with a firm that had tried to sell prohibited U.S. computer gear to Iran, after Reuters in 2013 reported deep links between the firm and the telecom-equipment giant’s chief financial officer, newly obtained internal Huawei documents show.
Huawei has long described the firm – Skycom Tech Co Ltd – as a separate local business partner in Iran. Now, documents obtained by Reuters show how the Chinese tech titan effectively controlled Skycom. The documents, reported here for the first time, are part of a trove of internal Huawei and Skycom Iran-related business records – including memos, letters and contractual agreements – that Reuters has reviewed.
One document described how Huawei scrambled in early 2013 to try to “separate” itself from Skycom out of concern over trade sanctions on Tehran. To that end, this and other documents show, Huawei took a series of actions – including changing the managers of Skycom, shutting down Skycom’s Tehran office and forming another business in Iran to take over tens of millions of dollars worth of Skycom contracts.
The revelations in the new documents could buttress a high-profile criminal case being pursued by U.S. authorities against Huawei and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of Huawei‘s founder. The United States has been trying to get Meng extradited from Canada, where she was arrested in December 2018. A Canadian judge last week allowed the case to continue, rejecting defense arguments that the U.S. charges against Meng do not constitute crimes in Canada.
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 via Skycom, and move money out of Iran by deceiving a major bank. The indictment alleges that Skycom was an “unofficial subsidiary” of Huawei, not a local partner.
Huawei and Meng have denied the criminal charges, which include bank fraud, wire fraud and other allegations. Skycom, which was registered in Hong Kong and was dissolved in 2017, is also a defendant. At one point, Huawei was a shareholder in Skycom but, according to corporate filings, sold its stake more than a decade ago.
The newly obtained documents appear to undermine Huawei‘s claims that Skycom was just a business partner. They offer a behind-the-scenes look at some of what transpired at the two companies inside Iran seven years ago and how intertwined the companies were. The documents are variously written in English, Chinese and Farsi.
Huawei declined to comment for this story.
China’s foreign ministry said the United States was politicizing economic and trade issues, which is not in the interest of Chinese or American firms. “We urge the United States to immediately stop its unreasonable suppression of Chinese firms including Huawei,” it said. It referred specific questions about this story to Huawei.
Reuters reported in March that Huawei had produced internal company records in 2010, including two packing lists, that showed it was directly involved in sending prohibited U.S. computer equipment to Iran. Huawei declined to comment on that story, citing ongoing legal proceedings.
To read the March report, click here.
The newly obtained documents show that Huawei‘s efforts to obscure its relationship with Skycom began after Reuters reported in December 2012 that Skycom had offered to sell at least 1.3 million euros worth of embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator in late 2010. In January 2013, a second Reuters report described how Huawei had close financial ties and other links to Skycom, including the fact that Meng had served on Skycom’s board of directors between February 2008 and April 2009.