Hmmm: Huawei exec arrested for espionage in Poland

The US has warned for almost a year that Huawei, a Chinese tech giant, might be partnering with Beijing’s intelligence agencies. An arrest of a Huawei executive in Poland for espionage might corroborate those concerns. It’s the second big arrest involving Huawei executives in the last few weeks:

A Chinese businessman and a Pole have been arrested by Poland’s Internal Security Agency on suspicion of espionage, an official said Friday.

Maciej Wasik, deputy head of Poland’s special services, said that the operation had been underway for a long time and was planned with care. …

Wasik added that the Polish national was “known in circles associated with cyber-business affairs.” He alleged both suspects “carried out espionage activities against Poland.”

NPR reports that this isn’t a case of industrial espionage, either. The Polish government says the two specifically spied for China:

Poland’s Internal Security Agency has detained a high-ranking employee of Chinese tech giant Huawei on suspicions of spying for China. A government spokesman identified the suspect as Weijing W.; media reports in Poland and China say he’s also known as Stanislaw Wang, Huawei’s sales director in Poland.

In a coordinated arrest, police also detained a Polish citizen named Piotr D. — a former Internal Security Agency official who now works for the telecom Orange Polska, according to Poland’s TVP Info, which first reported the story.

The government has evidence that the two suspects “cooperated with the Chinese services” as they conducted espionage against Poland, according to Stanisław Żaryn, spokesman for the special services branch, in a tweet about the case.

Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the company founder, as she transited through the country. Extradition to the US has already begun for a warrant alleging sanctions violations in trade with Iran. In response, China has arrested a handful of Canadian nationals, apparently forcing a hostage standoff to get Meng back. They seem to want Wanzhou out of the hands of Western investigators pretty badly — perhaps on principle, but also perhaps to protect their spycraft.

This, however, is a different kettle of fish. If a Huawei exec was directly involved in espionage, it will be hard to explain how the company wasn’t aware of those activities. The US has accused Huawei of potentially building “back doors” into its communications equipment to allow penetration by Chinese intelligence, in a similar manner as Kaspersky allegedly did with its anti-virus software on behalf of Russian intelligence. US officials have not produced much public evidence for these concerns, but this arrest will underscore Huawei’s potentially malicious ambitions.

Just how far did this go in Poland? NPR also notes that Huawei has the biggest market share in Poland’s cellphone market, with about a third. If the company uses its products to gain intel for Beijing, they have all sorts of sources available. The US has effectively blocked Huawei from competing in these markets and in telecom equipment for government offices, so they haven’t achieved the same toehold here. Some of our allies might want to consider whether to heed the earlier warnings from US intelligence.