Poland arrests Huawei employee and high-ranking security official on spying accusations

Poland has arrested a Huawei Technologies Co. employee and a former Polish security agent and accused them of spying for China, public television news channel TVPInfo said Friday.

The Huawei employee is a Chinese citizen responsible for sales to public-sector clients in Poland, according to TVPInfo. The other detained person is a former high-rank official at Poland’s internal security agency who worked at mobile phone operator Orange Polska SA, the broadcaster said. They will remain in custody for three months.

“We must now verify the activities aimed against the country and this case is far from closed,” Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesman for Poland’s secret services chief, told TVPInfo. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in jail, he said.

A Huawei representative said the company was looking into the matter and declined to comment further. The company said it abides by applicable laws wherever it operates and expects employees to do the same.

People passing by a car park sign of the Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019.

China is highly concerned over the issue, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ press office said in a faxed response to questions. “We are asking the related country to deal with the case fairly based on laws” and protect the legitimate rights of the people, it said.

TVPInfo named the two accused as Weijing W. and Piotr D., in line with Polish law which prohibits the publications of full names of those detained. The country’s security services searched the offices of Huawei as well as Orange Polska, public television said.

The Chinese technology giant is facing increasing pressure across the European Union amid growing concerns that Beijing could use Huawei’s gear for spying — something the company has always denied. The U.S. has been pushing European governments to block Huawei from telecom networks amid a wider dispute over trade between the world’s two biggest economies.

Orange Polska worked with Huawei last year on introducing the latest fifth-generation, or 5G, wireless network in the country of 38 million. Its parent company, France’s Orange SA, will no longer work with the Chinese company in France, Chief Executive officer Stephane Richard said Tuesday.

It’s not clear if its Polish unit has followed suit. Orange Polska’s spokesman Wojciech Jabczynski declined to comment on Huawei cooperation while confirming that the Warsaw-based company handed over an employee’s belongings to the Polish authorities on Tuesday.

Huawei has previously said it does not pose a security threat and that it’s never been asked by any government to build backdoors or interrupt any networks. It has said it would “never tolerate such behaviour by any of our staff.”

The company has also come under fire for allegations that Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou conspired to defraud banks to unwittingly clear transactions linked to Iran, in violation of U.S. Sanctions. Meng was released on bail four weeks ago and is living under restrictions in her million-dollar Vancouver home.

With assistance from Feifei Shen and Natalia Drozdiak.

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