Huawei has a secret office in Iran, because there hasn’t been enough bad news about the company

Andy Meek

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As if Huawei didn’t already have enough negative press coverage and headlines to grapple with, it seems that the company’s detained chief financial officer has provided fodder for still more.

After she was detained by Canadian officials back in December at the behest of US officials, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou reportedly told a Canadian border agent that the Chinese company operates an office in Iran. Her answer came after the agent questioned her about whether Huawei sold products to companies it shouldn’t be doing business with — and after she answered “I don’t know” at first.

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This revelation comes via a new report from Bloomberg, which notes that the agent met Wanzhou’s initial answer with skepticism. Surely the CFO of a multibillion-dollar company would know such details, the agent pressed.

The US has since levied formal charges at Huawei, making a variety of claims related to trade theft — as well as asserting that Huawei operates “a secret subsidiary,” per Bloomberg, in Iran. It’s a subsidiary that allegedly obtained American goods, technologies, and services there in violation of US-imposed sanctions, the news service adds.

Wanzhou’s arrest was noteworthy because it kicked the US ban against Huawei into high gear and represented a major black eye for the company, which is the second-largest smartphone maker in the world. Wanzhou also happens to be the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder and CEO, Ren Zhengfei, who distributed a memo internally to Huawei employees this week laced with militaristic language befitting Zhengfei’s time spent in the Chinese army.

Workers need to form high-performing “commando squads” to survive the current “live or die moment” facing Huawei, he wrote. If they fail to make themselves useful, the memo continues, workers’ “salaries will be cut every three months.”

This week began with the Huawei ban actually getting kicked up a notch. The US added several new Huawei entities to its blacklist but also extended a reprieve that gives Huawei time to make alternate business arrangements. The news about Huawei’s CFO, meanwhile, came as the Canadian government this week also released footage of her arrest, showing her with several bags of luggage.

According to arrest-related documents reviewed by Bloomberg, Meng was allowed to call a lawyer four hours after she was first detained. At that point, a police officer, “Yeah, if you find a lawyer sooner, you can go to the United States faster.”

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