RFL/RE – Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has pleaded guilty to violating U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping $32 million of U.S. technology to Iran.
The guilty plea on March 22 was part of an agreement the company reached earlier this month with U.S. authorities that also called for nearly $900 million in fines, the largest penalty assessed to date in such a case.
The company admitted to three charges: conspiring to export U.S.-made technology to Iran without a license from the U.S. government, obstructing justice, and making a material false statement.
A five-year investigation had found ZTE conspired to evade U.S.sanctions by buying U.S. components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment, and illegally shipping them to Iran.
ZTE, which devised elaborate schemes to hide the illegal activity, agreed to the guilty plea after the U.S. Commerce Department moved to cut off its global supply chain.
One of the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment makers, ZTE purchases some $2.6 billion worth of components a year from U.S. firms including Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Intel.
Based on reporting by Bloomberg, Fortune, Reuters, and NBC News