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ZTE’s probation for selling US-made products to Iran and North Korea comes to an end

Ending a five-year-long legal saga

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

ZTE’s probation in the US is coming to an end following a Texas judge’s ruling on Tuesday, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The Chinese telecommunications company had been under supervision by the US government since pleading guilty to illegally selling American-made equipment in Iran and North Korea in 2017. ZTE incurred a $1.2 billion fine as a result of violating US sanctions against both countries.

As the WSJ notes, US District Judge Ed Kinkeade decided not to punish ZTE for alleged visa fraud, which is the subject of a separate case that’s currently underway in Georgia. Last March, a ZTE researcher and professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology were accused of abusing the visa system to bring Chinese nationals to the US to work for ZTE. Kinkeade encouraged the government to take necessary legal action against the company, however.

The end of probation could help ZTE regain traction after spending time on the US’ economic blacklist in 2018 and replacing its top executives as a condition to resume trade. Despite ending a five-year-long legal saga, this ruling doesn’t change the fact that government officials in the US are banned from using ZTE and the China-based Huawei products and also doesn’t revert its status as a national security threat, which bars telecommunications providers from using government subsidies to purchase ZTE equipment. The Federal Communications Commission also has plans to rip and replace both ZTE and Huawei telecommunications equipment in a move that will cost $5.6 billion.