U.S. officials are widening their investigation into whether Huawei broke U.S. trade controls on Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
HONG KONG — As one of the world’s biggest sellers of smartphones and the back-end equipment that makes cellular networks run, Huawei Technologies has become one of the major symbols of China’s global technology ambitions.
But as it continues its rise, its business with some countries has fallen under growing scrutiny from U.S. investigators.
U.S. officials are widening their investigation into whether Huawei broke U.S. trade controls on Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, according to an administrative subpoena sent to Huawei and reviewed by The New York Times. The previously unreported subpoena was issued in December by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees compliance with a number of U.S. sanctions programs.
The Treasury’s inquiry follows a subpoena sent to Huawei this summer from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which carries out sanctions and also oversees exports of technology that can have military as well as civilian uses.
Most Read Stories
Huawei has not been accused of wrongdoing. As an administrative subpoena, the Treasury document does not indicate that the Chinese company is part of a criminal investigation.
Still, the widening inquiry puts Huawei in an awkward position at a moment when sanctions have taken on new import. The Trump administration has been working to push China to cut back its trade, and in turn economic support, for North Korea, amid rising tensions over the North’s nuclear and missile programs. The growing investigation also comes after Huawei’s smaller domestic rival, ZTE, in March pleaded guilty to breaking sanctions and was fined $1.19 billion.
It is not clear why the Treasury Department became involved with the Huawei investigation. But its subpoena suggests Huawei might also be suspected of violating U.S. embargoes that broadly restrict the export of U.S. goods to countries like Iran and Syria.
“The most likely thing happening here is that Commerce figured out there was more to this than dual-use commodities, and they decided to notify Treasury,” said Matthew Brazil, a former U.S. commercial officer in Beijing and founder of the Silicon Valley security firm Madeira Consulting.
Huawei said in a statement that it “has adhered to international conventions and all applicable laws and regulations where it operates.” The company would not comment on the specifics of the investigation but said it had a “robust trade compliance program.”
Still, by its own admission, the company has at times struggled with corporate governance. In a rare 2015 media appearance, Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder, said that 4,000 to 5,000 employees had admitted to various improprieties as part of a “confess for leniency” program the company set up in 2014.