Reports: ZTE close to striking US deal over Iran sales

ZTE is close to striking a deal with US authorities that will see the Chinese vendor plead guilty to breaching strict sanctions over the sale of technology to Iran.

As of last week, the company had yet to sign a deal with the US Department of Commerce (DoC), the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Treasury, but was granted a month-long reprieve from export restrictions.

According to reports from Reuters, ZTE is close to pleading guilty to the US criminal charges and will agree to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties over the alleged breach, which was unveiled by the news agency in 2012.

Citing a source familiar with the matter, Reuters said ZTE will plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, along with other charge.

A guilty plea could result in a denial order, which would see ZTE barred from using US origin goods and technology, although any settlement is suspected to negate this.

This is a prospect ZTE has been facing since March 2016 when the DoC found evidence that the Chinese company was smuggling hardware and software to Iran through shell companies.

The embargo was extended in stages until 27 February, the first day of Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, when ZTE and the rest of the world’s mobile equipment makers met to sell their products to operators.

The latest reprieve allows ZTE to sell its equipment until 29 March, although with a deal understood to be just round the corner, the issue may be resolved before the need for any further extensions.

Last week ZTE announced quietly that former CEO Shi Lirong had finally left the company’s board. Shi was one of the executives whose signatures were on the documents planning the conspiracy to export to Iran via shell companies.

He stepped down from the top position after the March 2016 revelations, but was still advising the board. ZTE paid tribute to Shi’s contribution to the company but made no mention of his role in the conspiracy.