Polish trial begins in Huawei spy case in China

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WARSAW – A spy trial involving a former Polish secret service agent and former Huawei employee begins Tuesday in a Warsaw court as some European states consider excluding the Chinese group’s equipment from their 5G telecommunications networks.

Poland arrested the pair in January 2019 on suspicion of spying for China, in a move that has intensified international debate over the potential security risks associated with the use of Huawei equipment in communications networks.

Huawei has repeatedly denied that its equipment could be used for spy purposes by authorities in Beijing, but the United States has pressured countries to ban it. In Europe, only Great Britain and Sweden have done so so far.

Polish prosecutors allege that Wang Weijing, 39, under the pretext of being a Huawei executive, spent more than seven years spying for China trying to strengthen the company’s ability to influence the Polish government and ” allow it to… manage the state’s technological infrastructure, ”court documents show.

Wang, who has been in detention since his arrest, is also accused of recruiting a former Polish secret service agent who prosecutors say informed him of ways to influence the radio networks of the rescue and public security services. from the country.

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Polish defendant Piotr D. worked for years in the upper echelons of government and is accused of “offering himself as a source of information” on public administration.

Both men deny any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors say the cybersecurity specialist, who requested that his last name not be disclosed in accordance with confidentiality rules, informed Wang of a surveillance system to guard against intruders accessing classified information sent via fiber optic communication networks created by the Warsaw Military University.

Wang’s attorney, Bartlomiej Jankowski, said prosecutors had no evidence of espionage activity on the part of his client.

“There is no evidence of anything illegal,” he told Reuters.

Huawei, which fired Wang after his arrest but helped fund his legal fees, told Reuters in a statement last month that its operations “meet the highest standards of transparency and compliance with laws and regulations.” .

AMERICAN RELATIONS

The administration of then-US President Donald Trump had congratulated Poland on the arrests, with former Vice President Mike Pence saying in 2019 that they demonstrated Warsaw’s commitment to ensuring the telecommunications sector was “not compromised in a way that threatens our national security.”

At the time, Warsaw was seeking to convince the United States to increase its military presence in Poland, alarmed by greater assertiveness by Russia.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government last year proposed a bill that could lead to Huawei’s de facto exclusion from building 5G networks, but the proposal has yet to be discussed by parliament.

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European mobile operators have long been reluctant to start investing in 5G networks, which could support smart factories and self-driving cars, due to a lack of political clarity on whether they should access US demands to exclude the main equipment supplier Huawei and other Chinese suppliers. .

Huawei said its exclusion from 5G would result in a loss of nearly 44 billion zlotys ($ 12 billion) to the Polish economy and a delay of a few years in the rollout of 5G.

He challenged Sweden’s ban on its equipment in 5G networks, where a verdict is awaited from a local court.

The Romanian government also approved a bill that effectively bans China and Huawei from participating in the development of its 5G network in April, but it still needs the approval of the upper house of parliament, seen as a buffer. made of rubber. (1 USD = 3.6646 zlotys)

(Additional reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm and Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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