Inquiry launched into the UK's Huawei 5G decision leak

The perpetrator could face up to 14 years in prison under the Official Secrets Act

Huawei logo on building

A formal inquiry into the leaking of Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to grant Huawei access to non-core features of Britain's 5G infrastructure prior to a thorough review of the evidence has been launched.

The decision was reportedly made during a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Tuesday that preceded the CyberUK event that happened in Glasgow this week. All the members on the council were compelled to sign the Official Secrets Act which, if broken, could result in a prison sentence between 2-14 years.

The NSC is comprised of senior cabinet ministers and its meeting are held weekly with the PM, other ministers and officials from the military and intelligence agencies are invited when necessary.

The information shared in these meetings between central government, GCHQ, MI5, MI6 is kept strictly secret. Several senior cabinet ministers deny being involved in the leak.

The leaked news revealed that Mrs May signed off an agreement to let Huawei supply some non-core equipment to the nation's infrastructure so as to strike a compromise between the security warnings supplied by the US and the advice from GCHQ which said that the Huawei security threat is real but manageable.

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The US has sustained its accusations against Huawei for months, claiming that the company colludes with the Chinese government and uses its infrastructure embedded in nations around the world to aid state-sponsored cyber espionage.

The warnings have been adopted by Australia which banned the company from its national infrastructure along with the US but Huawei has maintained that the allegations are unfounded.

Since the leak, Sir Mark Sedwill, Britain's top civil servant, has written to ministers demanding co-operation with the inquiry which he's leading. Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has said that the government cannot rule out the possibility of a criminal investigation.

Huawei's market-leading equipment is difficult to turn down for governments because of the pressure placed on nations to roll out a commercial 5G network in time to keep up with other countries.

"Arguably Huawei is still the network partner of choice on price, efficiencies and more importantly execution... despite the ongoing security concerns," said telecoms analyst Paolo Pescatore. "Significantly, Huawei is able to respond to every specific telco request within their timeframes." 

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Although the Chinese tech giant is embroiled in massive controversy and faces scrutiny from nearly every market it tries to enter, this didn't stop it from posting impressive quarterly revenue numbers earlier this week.

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