Poland arrests Huawei and Orange execs in government spying investigation  

11 January 2019 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Poland’s domestic counterintelligence agency has arrested an Orange Polska executive and a Huawei executive in an investigation of potential espionage against the country.

The agency, known in Poland as ABW, named the executives as Piotr D from Orange and Weijing W from Huawei, without giving their full family names.

The arrests were reported this morning by TVP Info, a Polish television news channel. TVP Info said: “Both men were detained on Tuesday [8 January] by officers of the Internal Security Agency.”

They appeared in court last night, said the channel, which is showing footage of the arrests and searches (pictured -- image from TVP Info) that ABW has carried out – not only at Orange and Huawei offices but also the Polish telecoms regulator Urząd Komunikacji Elektronicznej (UKD, Office of Electronic Communications), where the Polish individual worked for a time.

According to TVP Info’s information, the executive at Orange Polska used to work in the Internal Security Agency itself until 2011. “In the Agency he was the deputy head of the Department of Teleinformatic Security,” says TVP Info.

The channel says: “Piotr D had access to key information, including the functioning of SŁR, the Government Communication Network. It is an internal system that allows secret transmission of information to the most important people in the state.”

The Huawei executive, the channel says, was a diplomat at the Chinese consulate in Gdańsk before becoming a Huawei executive in Warsaw.

This is the first time, to Capacity’s knowledge, that a Huawei executive has been directly linked to international spying, linking the company with not only an incumbent operator but also, if TVP Info’s information about Piotr D is accurate, a national intelligence agency.

If true, this is something that will ring alarm bells in security agencies and governments around the world, as well as in telecoms companies.

Orange Polska, part of the French telecoms group, is the incumbent operator in Poland, previously called Telekomunikacja Polska.

The channel said the “men do not plead guilty and refuse to give explanations”. The channel says that Weijing W has not claimed diplomatic immunity.

A Huawei executive in Shenzhen told Capacity this morning: “Huawei is aware of the situation, and we are looking into it. We have no comment for the time being.”

The executive added what has become a standard sentence for the company in the past few months: “Huawei complies with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries where it operates, and we require every employee to abide by the laws and regulations in the countries where they are based.”

Capacity has also asked Orange group for a comment. A group spokesperson replied: “Orange can confirm that an investigation by Polish authorities is ongoing. The group is following the development of this investigation with interest and will fully cooperate with any requests for information from the relevant authorities. At this stage, Orange does not have any further information regarding the investigation and cannot make any further comment.” 

The official added: “The group will take all necessary measures to protect its interests, and in particular those of its Polish subsidiary and its customers, while ensuring that all due respect is taken with regards to the presumption of innocence.”

TVP Info says that Weijing W also uses the Polish first name Stanisław. The description fits the history on the LinkedIn entry of Stanislaw Wang, the sales director, public sector, at Huawei Enterprise Poland.

According to the LinkedIn entry identified by Capacity, he was at the Chinese consulate in Gdańsk from 2006 until early 2011, when he moved to Huawei in Warsaw, first in a public relations capacity and since January 2017 in his current sales role, which gives him access to the Polish public sector.

Capacity has not been able to identify anyone at Orange Polska on LinkedIn who matches Piotr D’s career information. The news channel says that after leaving ABW, Piotr D “was involved in IT security at the Military University of Technology” and then at UKD, the Polish telecoms regulator, before moving to Orange.