Leak from secret UK gov't meeting on Huawei 'not a crime'

Police say leak from meeting on China's Huawei - which felled the defence secretary - is not a criminal offence.

    Prime Minister Theresa May sacked Gavin Williamson as defence secretary over laeak of information about Chinese telecoms company Huawe [File: Sergio Perez/Reuters]
    Prime Minister Theresa May sacked Gavin Williamson as defence secretary over laeak of information about Chinese telecoms company Huawe [File: Sergio Perez/Reuters]

    British police have declined to investigate the leak of details from a secret government discussion about Chinese telecoms company Huawei, saying the disclosure did not amount to a crime. 

    In a statement on Saturday, Neil Basu, Britain's counterterrorism chief, said he was satisfied that the leak, which brought down the defence secretary, did not breach the Official Secrets Act.

    "No crime has been committed and this is not a matter for the police," he said.

    Opposition politicians had called for an investigation after Prime Minister Theresa May sacked Gavin Williamson as defence secretary over media reports that Britain had agreed to let Huawei participate in some aspects of Britain's new 5G wireless communications network.

    The decision was reportedly made at an April 23 meeting of the National Security Council (NSC).

    The council's discussions are only attended by senior ministers and security officials who first sign the Official Secrets Act that commits them to keep conversations private or risk prosecution. 

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    Basu, whose section is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of the act, said a probe would be inappropriate.

    "I am satisfied that the disclosure did not amount to a criminal offence, either under the Official Secrets Act or misconduct in a public office," the assistant commissioner said. 

    "The leak did not cause damage to the public interest at a level at which it would be necessary to engage misconduct in a public office. It would be inappropriate to carry out a police investigation in these circumstances."

    'Royally screwed' 

    Williamson has strenuously denied he was the source of the leak, which appeared in The Daily Telegraph newspaper and suggested May had cleared Huawei to be involved in "non-core" elements of the 5G network, such as antennae.

    On Saturday, he told the Daily Mail newspaper: "I have been royally screwed over. It is pretty painful. The only thing I want to do now is clear my name."

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    The 42-year-old was once a trusted ally of the prime minister.

    He was May's parliamentary campaign manager when she successfully ran to become Conservative Party leader in 2016.

    He was duly rewarded with the job of chief whip - tasked with enforcing discipline for the Conservatives in parliament and wielding power over misbehavers.

    May appointed International Development Minister Penny Mordaunt to replace Williamson. 

    The United States is adamantly opposed to Huawei's involvement in developing Britain's 5G network due to the firm's obligation under Chinese law to help its home government gather intelligence or provide other security services when required.

    David Lidington, May's effective deputy, said on Thursday there were no plans to pass information from an internal leak inquiry to the police, saying the prime minister regarded the matter as closed.

     

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies