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Huawei employee arrested in Poland over spying allegations

Key Points
  • Huawei's sales director and an ex-security agent were arrested on Tuesday, charged with espionage, according to Poland's TVP.
  • "Huawei is aware of the situation, and we are looking into it," a company spokesperson said. "We have no comment for the time being."
  • The news is likely to be another headache for Huawei, which has become enshrouded in controversy following the arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou.
A man walking past a Huawei P20 smartphone advertisement is reflected in a glass door in front of a Huawei logo, at a shopping mall in Shanghai, China December 6, 2018.
Aly Song | Reuters

Poland's counterintelligence agency has arrested and charged an employee of Chinese tech giant Huawei over spying allegations.

According to Polish TV broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP), Huawei's sales director and an ex-security agent were arrested on Tuesday by officers of the country's Internal Security Agency, charged with espionage.

The Huawei employee is reportedly a Chinese national, while the former security agent is said to be a Polish national who recently worked for the Polish subsidiary of French telecommunications firm Orange.

Huawei and Orange's offices were searched and documents seized by the Internal Security Agency, the broadcaster reported.

Huawei said the company, which overtook Apple as the world's second-largest smartphone manufacturer last year, is aware of the situation.

"Huawei is aware of the situation, and we are looking into it," the firm said in a statement. "We have no comment for the time being."

It added: "Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based."

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Orange confirmed an investigation by Polish authorities had taken place and was ongoing. The company's Polish subsidiary said it handed over the belongings of a male employee as a result of "actions" taken by the security services but that it had "no knowledge if there is any relation of these actions to his professional duties."

"The Group is following the development of this investigation with interest and will fully-cooperate with any requests for information from the relevant authorities," an Orange spokesperson said. "At this stage, Orange does not have any further information regarding the investigation and cannot make any further comment."

The spokesperson added: "The Group will take all necessary measures to protect its interests, and in particular those of its Polish subsidiary and its customers, while ensuring that all due respect is taken with regards to the presumption of innocence."

Poland's minister for special services identified the two arrested men as Weijing W., a Chinese national "linked to a Chinese telecommunications company" and Piotr D., "a former public officer." Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for the minister, said the full names of the men could not be published in the media under Polish law.

"The evidence gathered by the National Security Agency shows that both men carried out an espionage activity against Poland," he said in a statement.

"As part of the ongoing investigation, the officers of the Agency have taken the following necessary investigative steps: searches in the suspects' places of residence and evidence preservation."

The two men could serve 10 years in prison if convicted under the espionage charges. Both men will be held for a period of three months.

Another headache for Huawei

The news is likely to be another headache for Huawei, which has become enshrouded in controversy following the arrest of its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

Meng, the daughter of the company's founder Ren Zhengfei, was detained in Canada on Dec. 1. The U.S. is trying to have her extradited to stand trial on allegations of violating U.S. sanctions.

She was released on a 10 million Canadian dollars ($7.6 million) bail on Dec. 11 and remains in Vancouver, where she must wear an ankle monitor and comply with an 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.

Canada said earlier this month that 13 of its citizens had been detained in China following Meng's arrest, with at least eight of those citizens having since been released.

U.S. allies including the U.K., Australia and New Zealand have also raised the alarm over the firm, amid concerns that it may be a threat to national security.

Huawei has been blocked from participating in the 5G networks of Australia and New Zealand on the back of such fears. 5G refers to the next generation of mobile networks, and is a key area of focus for businesses working in the telecommunications space.