Criminal investigation possible after 'unacceptable' Huawei leaks: UK's culture minister

Criminal investigation possible after 'unacceptable' Huawei leaks: UK's culture minister
Copyright REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
Copyright REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
By Emma BeswickCristina Abellan-Matamoros with REUTERS
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British culture minister Jeremy Wright did not rule out a criminal investigation after press leaked China's Huawei Technologies' involvement in 5G network supply chains.


British culture minister Jeremy Wright said he would not rule out a criminal investigation after it was leaked that Britain will allow Huawei Technologies a restricted role in building parts of its 5G network.

It was reported by the Daily Telegraph that the Chinese technology giant would be given access to "non-core" components, building parts like antennas.

The leak is said to have come from a Tuesday meeting of the National Security Council, a government committee of ministers and senior figures from the armed forces and intelligence services.

Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, is under intense scrutiny after the United States told allies not to use the provider for fear it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying.

The company categorically denied this.

Allied nations are now walking a tightrope, with the US pressuring them to take a firm stance in the face of Huawei but also not wanting to bite the hand of China and risk trade and diplomatic sanctions.

"We cannot exclude the possibility of a criminal investigation here," Wright said in response to a question on Huawei in parliament.

"I do not think that the motivation for this leak matters in the slightest. This was unacceptable and it is corrosive to the ability to deliver good government."

Wright said these types of leaks endangered the ability of the parliamentary committee, which regularly hears from intelligence agency bosses, to get reliable security advice from experts.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May did not comment on the leaks but said: "The prime minister is clear that the protection of information on matters of national security is of the highest importance."

Wright will report to parliament the conclusions of a government review of the 5G network supply chain once they've been taken.

Five Eyes group will not use Huawei technology for "sensitive" parts

Rob Joyce, a senior official from the US National Security Agency, responded to claims concerning the UK by saying none of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing nations will use technology from Huawei "sensitive" parts of their telecoms networks.

Five Eyes group, made up of the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, is an anglophone intelligence alliance and arose out of a Cold War-era intelligence pact.

In line with the US restricting Huawei from its market, Australia took a hard line and banned it from supplying equipment for its network, citing national security risks.

The Chinese telecoms firm retorted claiming the move was “politically motivated”.

New Zealand has also stopped one of its operators using Huawei's 5G equipment and it is currently evaluating the potential risks, while Canada remains undecided.

The parts maker published adverts in major New Zealand newspapers comparing the ban on the company to a rugby tournament without the All Blacks.

“5G without Huawei is like rugby without New Zealand,” they read.


Despite the recent reports, Ciaran Martin, the head of Britain's National Cyber Security Centre, said that any differences of opinion concerning Huawei would not threaten intelligence-sharing between the five allies.

"We can and have coped with various differences in the past on all sorts of subjects," Martin told the conference where senior representatives from all the Five Eyes were speaking.

"You will see us united and linked that those most sensitive networks ... won't have those technologies from those countries that pose a threat to us whether it's China and Huawei or others."

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