UPDATE 2-China's ZTE subject to new U.S. bribery investigation - NBC News

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WASHINGTON, March 13 (Reuters) - Chinese telecoms company ZTE is the subject of a new bribery investigation at the U.S. Justice Department, centered on suspected bribes paid to foreign officials to gain advantages in its worldwide operations, NBC News said.

A spokesman for the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did the company.

ZTE pleaded guilty in 2017 and paid nearly $900 million to settle with the U.S. after an investigation found the telecommunications equipment maker conspired to evade U.S. embargoes by buying U.S. components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

A year later, the Trump administration slapped a ban on U.S. companies selling goods to the company after it determined ZTE made false statements about disciplining 35 employees tied to the sanctions violations.

The ban was lifted in 2018 after the company paid a $1 billion penalty to the U.S. Treasury and put another $400 million in escrow.

ZTE is the smaller rival to China’s Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.

Huawei has been on the Commerce Department’s entity list since May, which means U.S. companies are restricted from selling goods and technology to the company. ( Reporting by Chris Sanders; additional reporting by Chris Prentice and Karen Freifeld. Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Macfie)