An executive at the Chinese tech giant Huawei was arrested in Poland on suspicion of spying on behalf of the Chinese government, according to multiple reports. The Eastern European country's officers have seized documents from both Huawei's and Orange's offices.
The U.S. criticism has led to a number of Western countries and companies to review whether they should allow Huawei's equipment to be used in their telecoms networks.
Even without concrete evidence, many countries around the world are banning Huawei from working on their national 5G grid, with many more considering the same move.
The development comes as a US dispute with China over a ban on Huawei is spilling over to Europe, the company's biggest foreign market, where some countries are also starting to shun its network systems over data security concerns. Huawei, on the other hand, said that it's aware of the situation but denies comments for now.
He said no further details would be released about the case because it is classified and the investigation is ongoing. NPR also notes that Huawei has the biggest market share in Poland's cellphone market, with about a third. If found guilty they could face 10 years in jail.
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TVP said the Polish national was a former agent of the internal security agency. Other countries have concerns too: It has been prevented from supplying next-generation 5G equipment to Australia and New Zealand.
The Huawei employee was identified as the company's sales director for Poland, Weijing W., while the Polish citizen, Piotr D., worked for a telecommunications company called Orange Polska.
"One thing is clear: this is another nail in the coffin of Huawei's European ambitions", said Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute, a think tank. The arrest was made as a part of ongoing investigations into the alleged violations of U.S. trade sanctions.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it was "greatly concerned" by the reports, and urged Poland to handle the case "justly". Spokesman Wojciech Jabczynski declined to comment on Huawei cooperation but confirmed that the Warsaw-based company handed over an employee's belongings to the authorities. She is out on bail in Canada awaiting extradition proceedings.
Huawei has been blocked in the USA since 2012 after the House Intelligence Committee report found that using the company's technology could pose a security risk.