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Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou Leaves Canada For China, Agreement Made With US Authorities

Published: September 26, 2021
This screen grab made from video released on September 25, 2021 by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV shows Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou waving as she steps out of the plane upon arrival following her release, in Shenzhen in China's southern Guangdong province. (Image: CCTV/AFP via Getty Images)

After striking a deal with U.S. prosecutors, Huawei’s chief financial officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou left Canada for China on Sep. 24. Shortly after her release, the two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor who were in Chinese custody, were on their way back to Canada.

Ms. Meng was taken into custody in December 2018 at the Vancouver International Airport in Canada based on a U.S. warrant. She was charged with bank and wire fraud crimes for apparently deceiving HSBC in 2013 regarding Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.

The United States reached a deferred prosecution agreement with Ms. Meng. “In entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution,” Nicole Boeckmann, the acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, said in a statement.

On early Friday, Ms. Meng virtually attended a hearing at the Brooklyn federal court. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kessler stated that the government is willing to dismiss charges against her provided that she complies with all of her obligations under the agreement that ends in December 2022. He stated that Ms. Meng would be released on a personal recognizance bond and that Washington will withdraw its extradition request to Canada. 

During the hearing, Ms. Meng pleaded not guilty to the allegations leveled against her which included conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.

After the Brooklyn hearing, Ms. Meng appeared at a court in Vancouver where a Canadian judge signed the Huawei CFO’s order of discharge, lifting her bail conditions, and allowing her to leave the country after nearly three years of house arrest. An emotional Ms. Meng was seen hugging and thanking her lawyers after the judge’s order. Soon afterward, she boarded an Air China flight for Shenzhen, China, where Huawei is headquartered.

The case against Ms. Meng arises from a January 2019 allegation from the Justice Department that accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets. Huawei also used Skycom, a Hong Kong shell company, to sell equipment to Iran, a move that violated American sanctions. There were also several financial and personnel links between Huawei and Skycom. Between February 2008 and April 2009, Ms. Meng had served on Skycom’s board of directors.

In 2019, Huawei was placed on a U.S. trade blacklist that prevents American businesses from selling to the Chinese company for activities antithetical to the national security and foreign policy interests of America. The criminal case against Ms. Meng is mentioned in the blacklisting which charges Huawei as operating a criminal enterprise engaged in defrauding financial institutions and stealing trade secrets.

The Justice Department’s extradition request was fiercely contested by Ms. Meng. Her lawyers claimed that the case was fallacious and alleged that she was being used as a pawn in political gamesmanship.

Hostage Diplomacy

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained by China on grounds of espionage a few days after Ms. Meng’s arrest in Canada. China’s actions were widely seen by many countries as hostage politics. However, Beijing refuted that the arrests were linked. Spavor, an entrepreneur, and Kovrig, a former diplomat, were detained for more than 1,000 days in China. They were released shortly after Ms. Meng’s plane left Canada. 

In a brief remark to reporters, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed that the two men had left Chinese airspace, accompanied by Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to China. “I want to thank our allies and partners around the world in the international community who have stood steadfast in solidarity with Canada and with these two Canadians,” he told reporters.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Washington stands with the international community in “welcoming” Beijing’s decision to release the Canadian detainees. “We are pleased that they are returning home to Canada,” he said in a statement.