© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk past a building of China’s ZTE Corp in Beijing, China, August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
By Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Tuesday ruled that China’s ZTE Corp (HK:), a top telecommunications equipment maker, should be allowed to end its five-year probation from its 2017 guilty plea.
The ruling came on the final day of the company’s probation for illegally shipping U.S. technology to Iran and North Korea.
ZTE had been accused of violating probation over an alleged conspiracy to bring Chinese nationals to the United States to conduct research at ZTE through visa fraud.
While the judge said he found allegations of conspiracy to commit visa fraud to be true, he decided to not take any further action against ZTE, which had already reached the maximum probation for a felony.
According to an indictment unsealed last March, a former ZTE research director and a Georgia Institute of Technology professor allegedly conspired to bring Chinese nationals to the U.S. to conduct research at ZTE between at least 2014 and 2018 while on J-1 visas sponsored by the university.
While ZTE is not charged in the visa case, which is pending in Atlanta, Georgia, the fraud allegation was viewed as a possible violation of its probation.
Despite the favorable ruling, the judge encouraged the government to pursue reasonable charges and criminal or civil penalties against the company.
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