Exclusive: China's ZTE expected to plead guilty over Iran sales - source

Thu Mar 2, 2017 2:30pm EST
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By Karen Freifeld

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp (000063.SZ: Quote)(0763.HK: Quote) is nearing an agreement to plead guilty to U.S. criminal charges and pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties over allegations it violated U.S. laws that restrict sale of U.S. technology to Iran, a person familiar with the matter said.

The company has not yet signed a deal with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Treasury, cautioned the person, who declined to speak on the record because the negotiations are not public.

Others noted that with a new U.S. administration prompting changes in personnel at government departments, a final deal may be delayed or even scuttled.

But ZTE is expected to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, among other charges, the source said, and pay penalties in the hundreds of millions.

A ZTE spokesman declined to comment, as did spokesmen for the Justice and Treasury departments. A spokesman for the Department of Commerce did not respond to requests for comment.

The Commerce Department investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that the company had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars worth of hardware and software from some of America's best-known technology companies to Iran's largest telecoms carrier.

The original report can be read here: goo.gl/rvNwr6

An agreement would cap a year of uncertainty for the Shenzhen-based company, which was placed on a list of entities March 2016 that U.S. suppliers could not work with without a license. ZTE acted contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, the Commerce Department said at the time.   Continued...

ZTE's logo on its R&D center is seen in Beijing, China, March 22, 2016.REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon