The U.S. Commerce Department has accused China’s biggest wire and cable producer Far East Cable of having a hand in letting Iran acquire restricted telecommunications equipment. 

A statement released on Aug. 8 alleged that Far East Cable helped Chinese telecoms firm ZTE hide its business with Iran, charging the Jiangsu-based company of 18 export breaches between September 2014 and January 2016.

In 2013, Far East Cable signed a purchase contract worth nearly $164 million for ZTE’s telecommunications network equipment and parts. Soon after, the company signed supply contracts with multiple Iranian buyers. As a third party, Far East Cable successfully masked ZTE’s association with Iran until early 2016. 

The Commerce Department said such transactions hide the sale of U.S. technology. Via Far East Cable, ZTE would export or re-export American-made goods to its Iranian clients while evading U.S. examination.

ZTE already caught Washington’s attention in 2012 for its dealings with the Middle East nation. This prompted John Sonderman, a Commerce Department official, to say, “As alleged, Far East Cable acted as a cutout for ZTE, facilitating ZTE shipments to Iran at the very time ZTE knew it was under investigation for the exact same conduct.”

According to Reuters, ZTE agreed to pay an $892 million fine and admitted guilt in breaking export laws and sending U.S.-made technology to Iran. The company also acknowledged its complex operation to conceal its illegal dealings with Iran.

ZTE was not stopped from acquiring U.S. technology until April 2018 after being exposed of lying about punishing staff members involved in the violations. The ban was removed three months later after the Chinese telecom giant accepted to pay $1 billion, reform its leadership, and other terms.

ZTE’s court-ordered probation resulting from its guilty plea in 2017 ended in March. The Commerce Department is paying close attention to the firm.

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