An FBI Sting Op Targeted Huawei at CES 2019
U.S. government and law enforcement officials are not the biggest fans of major Chinese tech company Huawei. That’s the furthest thing from breaking news that you’ll probably read today. The rocky relationship goes back seemingly years and includes mandates by the U.S. government to ban Huawei devices at retail and among its employees, an arrest of and indictments against the company’s CFO, and killing negotiations between the smartphone maker and network carriers.
But things took a step towards the extreme recently, according to a really compelling—and telling—report from Bloomberg. The in-depth piece published on Monday details a sting operation that was set up by the FBI and executed during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January.
According to the report, the FBI somehow caught wind that Huawei was in early stage negotiations with a small Illinois-based startup regarding that company’s smartphone screens. Adam Khan, the founder of the company Akhan Semiconductor, described his screen tech—known as MIraj Diamond Glass—as being 10 times more scratch resistant than Gorilla Glass, the industry standard when it comes to “indestructible” smart phone screens.
It turned out that Khan already had some suspicions about Huawei’s actual intent when it came to working with his company. According to Khan, he sent Huawei a sample piece of his glass, which was ultimately returned very late, and badly damaged. His first thought: They might’ve been trying to steal his technology.
It wasn’t long after that Khan was contacted by the FBI and asked to take part in a sting operation at CES. There, the agency told him, he would hold a meeting with senior Huawei officials and help to uncover the Chinese tech firm’s illegal and illicit trade actions.
The full Bloomberg report is certainly worth the look and provides a really detailed account of the hurdles the operation had to get over—including an impromptu rescheduling of the encounter. Ultimately, the encounter led to a raid of Huawei’s San Diego lab and helped the FBI bring about a 10-count indictment against the firm.
“The charges … clearly allege that Huawei intentionally conspired to steal the intellectual property of an American company in an attempt to undermine the free and fair global marketplace,” FBI Director Wray said in a statement. “To the detriment of American ingenuity, Huawei continually disregarded the laws of the United States in the hopes of gaining an unfair economic advantage. As the volume of these charges prove, the FBI will not tolerate corrupt businesses that violate the laws that allow American companies and the United States to thrive.”