March 5, 2022
Former ZTE research director and Georgia Tech professor charged with conspiracy to illegally bring Chinese nationals to the United States
ZTE, the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker, will return to court on March 14 to face a new charge that it may have violated probation from its 2017 guilty plea for illegally shipping American technology to the United States. ‘Iran.
The possible violation relates to an alleged conspiracy to commit visa fraud, according to a March 4 filing in federal court in Texas.
An indictment unsealed last March accuses a former ZTE research director and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology of conspiring to bring Chinese nationals to the United States on J-1 visas designed to work and study in institutions like Georgia Tech.
After arriving, the Chinese nationals went to work for ZTE in New Jersey, according to the indictment.
The professor, Gee-Kung Chang, pleaded not guilty. The status of ZTE’s research director Jianjun Yu is unclear. ZTE is not charged in the case.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, where the visa case is pending, declined to comment.
A Justice Department spokesperson in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for ZTE also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If ZTE is found to have violated its probation, the ramifications are unclear. But in the past, ZTE has faced massive fines and other penalties for violating US authorities.
ZTE agreed to pay $892 million and pleaded guilty in Texas in 2017 to criminal charges for violating laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran and North Korea.
A five-year investigation found that ZTE conspired to circumvent embargoes by purchasing US components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.
Investigators also uncovered 283 shipments of telecommunications equipment to North Korea.
At the time, ZTE accepted three years of probation, a compliance program and a corporate controller.
But in 2018, the US Commerce Department said ZTE lied about executive discipline related to wrongdoing and banned ZTE from doing business with US suppliers.
ZTE paid $1 billion and agreed to change management and cooperate with a 10-year-old second controller, among other conditions, to get the ban lifted.
The Texas judge also extended the criminal case and monitor company’s probation period for an additional two years until March 22, 2022.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell