A ZTE executive has refused to appear before a US district court hearing a patent licensing case for fear of being detained by the US government over allegations that the company exported banned products to Iran.

Guo Xiaoming, the company’s general counsel, has failed to make himself available to the Manhattan court for questioning in a breach of contract lawsuit with Vringo, a patent licensing firm, Reuters reported. ZTE has requested that Guo make a deposition in Hong Kong. The judge has rejected the request.

ZTE and Vringo have sued each other in the New York court, as well as other countries, for patent infringement related to mobile phone technology.

ZTE said Guo was not willing to travel to the US because of the country’s ongoing criminal investigations, which are looking into its possible unauthorised export of US computer equipment to Iran in 2010. The export of US goods to Iran would be a violation of US sanctions and violators are subject to heavy fines.

The company said it believed Guo would be questioned or detained over the criminal investigations.

The Manhattan judge said ZTE previously gave other reasons why Guo couldn’t appear and believed it was trying to stall the case, Reuters said.