ZTE has agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges of violating US sanctions on North Korea and Iran and to pay up to $1.2bn in fines, the largest sanctions-busting penalty levied against a Chinese company by Washington. According to the Financial Times, the Chinese telecommunications group also admitted to obstructing a federal investigation as part of a settlement announced on Tuesday after more than a year of negotiations with the US government. Those talks accelerated after US officials seized the laptop of a ZTE lawyer as her husband tried to leave the US, resulting in a trove of documents that laid bare what officials called a brazen conspiracy to get around US sanctions. The investigation was begun under the Obama administration, but the administration of Donald Trump quickly seized on the case as an example of how it planned to get tough on China and others it accused of cheating on trade.
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