The US Department of Commerce (DoC) has given itself more time to consider the impact of alleged cyberhacking on its investigation into Chinese solar panel imports.

SolarWorld’s lawyers have requested a 'changed circumstances review', in light of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) hacking charges against five members of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The DoC is now reviewing the request and is expected to conclude its deliberations by the end of this month.

According to a statement by the DoJ, Wen Xinyu, an officer in the PLA, and co-conspirators, stole thousands of files from the US-based arm of SolarWorld. These include emails from three senior executives, pricing data and production costs.

“Wen and at least one other, unidentified co-conspirator stole thousands of files including information about SolarWorld’s cash flow, manufacturing metrics, production line information, costs, and privileged attorney-client communications relating to ongoing trade litigation, among other things,” the DoJ statement said.

SolarWorld’s filing, submitted in July, said: “SolarWorld urges the department to conduct changed circumstances reviews to further investigate the extent to which the integrity and fairness of the department’s anti-dumping and countervailing duty proceedings, and the resulting margins, were compromised by the alleged theft of SolarWorld’s proprietary and privileged information…the alleged theft of its confidential and privileged information, and also the government of China’s potential provision of this information to Chinese state-owned solar manufacturers, some of whom were likely parties to the proceedings, constitutes circumstances warranting changed circumstances reviews.”

It is unclear whether or not the DoC would change its trade duties on Chinese imports should it uphold SolarWorld's claims.

Separately, Trina Solar has asked the US DoC for a public hearing to address what it calls “legal and factual issues”. Jinko Solar and ReneSola subsequently requested to appear at any future planned hearing.

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