Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CFO, Released by B.C. Court Amid U.S. Plea Deal

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, has been freed after a B.C. court adjourned her U.S. extradition case.

The judge’s decision to free Meng comes just hours after the Huawei executive secured a deal to resolve the charges against her in a U.S. court.

If she abides by the terms of the deal, U.S. prosecutors said all charges against her will be dismissed, paving the way for her release.

The prosecutors also said they’ll be informing Canada that the U.S. is withdrawing its extradition request — the very request that led to her arrest in the first place.

As part of the new deferred prosecution agreement, Meng plead not guilty.

“This Deferred Prosecution Agreement will lead to the end of the ongoing extradition proceedings in Canada, which otherwise could have continued for many months, if not years,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division in a statement.

“We are enormously grateful to Canada’s Department of Justice for its dedicated work on this extradition and for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law.”

The Canadian court appearance is also expected to be significant and relate to the deal between the U.S. and Meng, Reuters has reported.

In Meng’s initial arrest, Canadian officials were acting on a U.S. warrant that had charged her with fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng says she is innocent and has been fighting extradition to the United States from Canada. Meng is confined to Vancouver and monitored 24/7 by private security that she pays for as part of her bail agreement.

Judicial hearings in her extradition case wrapped up in August, with the date for a ruling to be set on Oct. 21.

Resolving the case could have implications for two Canadians who are detained in China, as Chinese officials often moved Meng’s case in lockstep with the cases of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. However, China has rejected the suggestion that the cases of the Canadians in China are linked to Meng’s case.

The timeline of the cases makes it “difficult to believe” that China wasn’t moving the Canadians’ cases in tandem with the developments in Meng’s extradition trial, former foreign affairs minister John Manley told Global News in a previous interview.

Spavor and Kovrig often referred to as the Two Michaels, have been detained in China since December 2018. They were thrown in Chinese jail just 10 days after Canada arrested Meng in Vancouver.

On March 1, 2019, Canada approved the extradition order of Meng to the United States. Just two days afterward, China claimed Kovrig had stolen state secrets.

In mid-May of 2019, China arrested the two men over allegations of espionage — a charge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly called “trumped-up” and “arbitrary.” China can only hold detainees up to six months before they must be arrested — and that deadline was almost up.

Then, in late May 2020, a Canadian court ruling dealt a major blow to Meng’s legal team and allowed her case to continue moving forward. Less than a month afterward, China formally indicted Spavor and Kovrig.

“It would be quite a remarkable coincidence…were they were not related,” Manley said.

The saga is a familiar one for Kevin Garratt, a Canadian who was detained in China for almost two years. He was scooped up by Chinese authorities in apparent retaliation for the Canadian arrest of Su Bin, a Chinese resident working in Canada whose extradition had been requested by the Americans.

In Garratt’s case, he finally saw the other side of his prison cell after Su was extradited and opted not to appeal the decision.

China could, theoretically, do “exactly the same thing” with Spavor and Kovrig, Garratt said.

“It’s really up to China, what they want to do. They can make this as short or as long as they want,” he said.

They can bring them to trial immediately. There’s nothing is stopping them from doing that for Michael Kovrig. He could go right to trial tomorrow, you know, and be on a plane in a day or two from now.”

Garratt wasn’t alone in the sentiment. The timing of the two Michaels’ return to Canada is “completely up to the top political powers in Beijing,” according to Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, who is a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa.

Beijing will determine “whether they send them home in the next week, or try to punish Canada further for arresting her in the first place and or indeed, try to get other concessions out of us,” she said.

“I think the Canadian government and our ambassador in Beijing must insist that they now be released, and certainly the families are going to be hoping for that,” McCuaig-Johnston said.

“This is a major step for the families. If Madam Meng can be sent home, that relieves that important barrier as far as Beijing is concerned.”

But as the dust seems poised to settle over the issue, the ongoing saga regarding Meng’s arrest has damaged the relationship between Canada and China, according to Vincent Yang, who is a senior associate with the Vancouver-based International Centre for Criminal Law Reform & Criminal Justice Policy.

“After Ms. Meng’s arrest, and especially after the arrest of our two Michaels, that relationship has completely changed and the damage is permanent, in my opinion. It’s very difficult to repair,” Yang said.

“It’s going to take many decades…to restore the relationship. The trust is gone.”

This post is also available in: English

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