Relations between Chinese telecoms vendor ZTE and the US federal government remain as tense as ever, with ZTE claiming it won't allow one of its executives to testify in a New York court over fears he will be detained if he enters the US.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York had ordered Guo Xiaoming, ZTE's general counsel, to appear in Manhattan and give a deposition in an ongoing dispute with patent troll Vringo.
ZTE said he won't, citing concerns that if he sets foot on US soil, he could be arrested and detained for questioning in relation to an investigation by the Department of Commerce and the FBI into ZTE's past business dealings with Iran.
The feds have alleged that in 2010, ZTE engaged in a lucrative contract with the government of Iran that included selling it equipment and software made by US firms, which was prohibited under US trade sanctions.
The government's complaint claims ZTE established shell companies and shredded documents in an ongoing effort to conceal its business dealings in the Islamic republic.
ZTE, meanwhile, says it folded its operations in Iran in 2013. That's done little to appease the US, however, which has repeatedly accused the telecoms firm of using its technology to aid the Chinese government in spying on its international rivals.
Reuters reports that ZTE asked Judge Kaplan to instead allow Guo to give his deposition in Hong Kong "as a matter of discretion and – for lack of a better word – mercy." But it reportedly added that Guo would not appear in the US, regardless of the court's response to its so-called request.
Judge Kaplan was not amused and denied the request, reportedly telling ZTE's representatives, "In light of ZTE's lack of candor and its stalling and game playing ... ZTE has no claim on the favorable exercise of the Court's discretion."
He added that the court should not be put in the position of helping a witness avoid potential charges in a US federal criminal prosecution – and besides, he reportedly said, ZTE has declined to produce Guo before, only it has previously given completely different reasons. ®