Chinese telecom giant, Huawei, is currently embroiled in a major controversy as South Sudan government officials accuse the company of forgery and hacking of official e-mails.
In a letter addressed to South Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Benjamin Barnaba, and dated October 10, 2014; the country’s Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Michael Lueth, accused Huawei of hacking into government e-mails and forging documents.
“Recently we have discovered a serious case that one of Chinese Private Company, Huawei, has committed,” Mr. Lueth wrote in the letter.
The minister said that the South Sudanese government are “shocked” by Huawei’s “unbecoming behaviour which is tantamount to forgery.”
“Huawei wanted to create confusion between our government and the Chinese. I suspect that Huawei has been hacking many Government officials e-mail and falsifying and forging documents on behalf of the senior government officials,” Mr. Lueth said.
According to Mr. Lueth, on October 3, Huawei’s Sullivan Chen sent an email to Acting Director General of Information, Paul Kumbo, with hopes of getting a letter printed on official ministry letter-head, signed, and stamped so he could send it to China.
After receiving the mail, Mr. Kumbo reported it to the minister.
“Huawei attempted to send forged document to Hon Li Ruogu, the President of the Export- Import Bank of China on my behalf,” Mr. Lueth said.
“The purpose of the letter was the postponement of the funding of the Digital Migration TV project.”
A close rival of Huawei is believed to have been given the nod to execute the TV Digital Migration project.
Mr. Lueth said he summoned Huawei’s Acting Managing Director and senior staff to explain the matter but none of them showed up.
“The summon was communicated by phone by the acting director general of information and my office manager to a certain Chen, but no-one has reported to me,” the minister said.
“This indicates the bad intentions of the company towards the government and the people of South Sudan.
While the South Sudanese government is launching an investigation into the allegations, Mr. Lueth recommended that “serious investigation” be taken against Huawei in order to ascertain the “dirty and malicious acts” of the company.
“Mr. Sullivan Chen should be investigated and if found guilty; deported from South Sudan back to China. Chinese embassy (is) to be informed about the criminal and harmful deeds of Huawei against the Republic of South Sudan and its people.”
Mr. Kumbo, the recipient of the allegedly forged e-mail from Huawei, attributed the hacking scandal to a business rivalry between two Chinese firms in South Sudan.
“The Minister did not write any letter. This is just forgery and an extension of the fight between the two companies,” Mr. Kumbo said.
“We are told one of the junior staff of Huawei company is suspected in this. I met the company including its Managing Director, who denied any knowledge of the letter.”
Last year a former United States Central Intelligence Agency boss, Micheal Hayden, accused the company of spying on US. Its reputation was also called to question in a $1m bribery scandal involving the chairman of Belgian telecom operator, Belgacom, Micheal Moss.
Huawei with its headquarters in Shenzen Guadong, China, is one of the major players in Nigeria’s telecoms industry.
The company has recently expanded its operations in Nigeria to include security solutions and handsets products.
In an e-mail response to a PREMIUM TIMES enquiry, Huawei said that they are taking Mr. Lueth’s accusations “very seriously” and have commenced a full internal investigation.
“Huawei has been committed to the development of the telecommunications industry in South Sudan and to supporting the government and the people of South Sudan in the modernization of the nation’s economy since 2005,” Kevin Li, Public Relations Manager, Huawei Nigeria, said.
“Since then, we have built a record of mutual trust and cooperation with the government, our business partners, and our customers in this important country.
“That is a record that we work hard to protect and our efforts to do that include insisting that all our employees respect the laws and regulations of South Sudan and our own Business Conduct Guidelines.”
Mr. Li said that all Huawei’s employees are aware of the company’s zero tolerance for any infractions of either the laws and regulations of South Sudan or Huawei’s strict governance procedures.
“While we are heartened by the statements others in the government have made in the South Sudan media that they do not believe there is basis for the allegations, we take the concerns of the Information Minister very seriously and, as we have informed him and others in the government, we are carrying out a full internal investigation to ensure that our commitment to ethical business practices have not been violated by any of our employees,” Mr. Li said.
“If any infractions by any employee are found, we will take swift action to address them.”