ZTE fined $1.1bn for flouting U.S. sanctions against Iran

ZTE entered a guilty plea over the charges, which include violating export controls meant to keep sensitive USA technology away from the Iranian government, the U.S Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

It is the largest criminal penalty in USA history in an export control or sanctions case, government officials say. It has also agreed to pay another $300 million, suspended during a seven-year-period, if it does not meet the terms of the agreement, which includes the appointment of a corporate compliance monitor.

He added: "This plea agreement holds them accountable, and makes clear that our government will use every tool we have to punish companies who would violate our laws, obstruct justice and jeopardise our national security".

"ZTE acknowledges the mistakes it made, takes responsibility for them, and remains committed to positive change in the company".

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The settlement was made with Justice, the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department.

Federal prosecutors accuse ZTE of shipping American "servers, switches, routers" and other cellular network equipment through China to Iran without obtaining the required export licenses from USA authorities.

Improved trade games are over with, "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters Tuesday". "Those who flout our economic sanctions, export control laws, and any other trade regimes, will not go unpunished". "We are committed to a new ZTE, compliant, healthy and trustworthy", ZTE CEO Zhao Xianming said in a statement.

The Shenzhen-based firm, the fourth-largest phone vendor in the USA behind Apple, Samsung, and LG, reached the settlement with the Departments of Justice, Commerce, and Treasury.

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"They (ZTE) lied to federal investigators and even deceived their own counsel and internal investigators about their illegal acts", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

In addition, it was charged in connection with 283 shipments of telecommunications equipment to North Korea.

In response, the US placed trade restrictions on the Chinese company that barred USA firms from supplying ZTE with technology equipment, although temporary reprieves were granted. "Instituting new compliance-focused procedures and making significant personnel changes has been a top priority for the company".

Under the extensions, USA suppliers have been able to continue to supply ZTE with software, technology and components despite the Commerce restrictions.

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