US Judge Ann Donnelly of US District Court in Brooklyn, New York on Tuesday disqualified James Cole, a Washington lawyer for China’s Huawei from defending the big tech from the charges against bank fraud and sanctions violations.
Judge Donnelly issued the order after federal prosecutors argued that Cole’s previous work at the Department of Justice created conflicts of interest from his prior position. He served as a deputy attorney general from 2010 to 2015 in the Obama administration. He is currently a partner at Sidley Austin, which declined commenting on the matter.
The prosecutors argue that Cole’s defence of Huawei, a Chinese tech “creates the real risk that he will breach his duty of confidentiality to the Department of Justice by relying on information he obtained while representing the department.” They said further that “there is a risk that Cole will breach his duty of loyalty to the department by making arguments on behalf of the defendants that contradict positions he previously took while representing the DOJ.”
The US-China case has attracted much publicity as it is taking place against the backdrop of the Trump led administration making effort to seal a trade deal with China and an obvious attempt to keep Huawei out of the global 5G wireless networks citing national security.
The Chinese was indicted in January on account of bank fraud, wire fraud, violations of Iran sanctions and conspiracy to launder money and to obstruct justice. The case accuses Huawei of conspiring to defraud HSBC holdings Plc and to other banks by misrepresenting its relationship with a company that had its operations in Iran.
Cole on behalf of Huawei pleaded not guilty to all the charges in March.
Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer and daughter of Huawei’s founder was arrested last December for her alleged role in the crime. She is currently fighting extradition from Canada.
Meng says she is innocent of the alleged crimes.
Michael Levy, another lawyer for the company argued that the effort to disqualify Cole from standing for Huawei is a tactical step from the US government’s campaign against China.
Cole on his part said he can hardly recollect the matters cited as the basis for his disqualification, but declined to comment on the judge’s decision.
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision, which we believe violates Huawei’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel of its choice. We reserve our right to appeal this decision when appropriate,” Huawei spokesperson said in a statement.