A Chinese telecommunications company has agreed to pay $892 million for violating US sanctions on Iran, settling a case that resulted in increased tension between the USA and China. During that investigation, it found that ZTE was fully aware the company was violating US law, but senior executives at the Chinese company still approved the scheme. ZTE then lied to federal investigators, insisting that the shipments had stopped, the Justice Department said.
"ZTE engaged in an elaborate scheme to acquire US-origin items, send the items to Iran and mask its involvement in those exports", Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord said in a statement.
ZTE - which is is one of the world's biggest telecoms gear makers - admitted shipping large amounts of USA made hardware and software to Iran's largest telecoms carrier and lying about that when caught.
"ZTE acknowledges the mistakes it made, takes responsibility for them, and remains committed to positive change", company chief Zhao Xianming said in a statement.
The company's guilty pleas, which must be approved by a judge, will take place in U.S. District Court in Texas.
In March 2016, ZTE was placed on a list of entities that USA firm could not supply without a license. ZTE acted contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, the Commerce department said at the time.
ZTE warned last month the penalties could impact its results. The company obtained contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Iranian entities to build telecommunications networks in the country.
Since that March 2016 finding, Commerce has issued a series of temporary reprieves for ZTE from the sanctions. Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel are among its suppliers. It found that shipped items included things such as microprocessors, routers, and servers, which are specifically regulated under USA law to prevent terrorism from countries on the list.
The settlement ends a five-year federal investigation into ZTE.
ZTE replaced executives allegedly involved, including naming a new president.
The company on Tuesday agreed to a seven-year suspended denial of export privileges, which could be activated if there are further violations. ZTE must also work with a monitor for three years to make sure they comply with export rules. Of the $892 million total, $101 million will be paid to the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, representing the office's largest settlement in history with a non-financial firm, according to Reuters.
The penalties are among the largest ever imposed in a sanctions case.
Chinese cellphone maker ZTE, the fourth-largest seller of cellphones in the U.S., has reached a blockbuster settlement with USA authorities over its selling of technology to Iran.
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