Canadian Judge Signs Discharge Order Releasing Meng Wanzhou From Custody
21:21 GMT 24.09.2021 (Updated: 23:54 GMT 24.09.2021)
© REUTERS / JENNIFER GAUTHIERHuawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada December 7, 2020.
© REUTERS / JENNIFER GAUTHIER
Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou has been detained in Canada since December 1, 2018, when she was arrested for potential extradition to the United States. The charges have been widely interpreted as part of the US' wider persecution of the Shenzhen-based tech giant, which her father, Ren Zhangfei, founded.
After vacating her bail conditions and signing an order of discharge, British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Justice Heather Holmes has allowed Meng to walk free, ending a debacle that has lasted more than two-and-a-half years.
"My life has been turned upside down, it was a disruptive time for me," Meng said after being discharged. "Every cloud has a silver lining ... I will never forget all the good wishes I received from people around the world."
Meng left almost immediately on a plane to China.
Meng's freedom from house arrest comes after reaching a deferred prosecution deal with the US Department of Justice. She appeared virtually in a New York courtroom from her mansion in Vancouver, Canada, earlier in the day and pleaded non guilty.
"Under the terms of the DPA, Meng has agreed to the accuracy of a four-page statement of facts that details the knowingly false statements she made to Financial Institution 1," the DOJ said on Friday, referring to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC).
"Meng also has agreed not to commit other federal, state or local crimes. If Meng breaches the agreement, she will be subject to prosecution of all the charges against her in the third superseding indictment filed in this case. The government also agreed to withdraw its request to the Ministry of Justice of Canada that Meng be extradited to the United States," it adds.
'Political' Charges Damage US-China Relationship
The three-year affair began when she was detained by Canadian police on December 1, 2018, during a layover at Vancouver International Airport while traveling from Hong Kong to Mexico. An arrest warrant had been issued four months earlier by the US District Court for the District of Eastern District of New York, which accused her of circumventing US sanctions on Iran years earlier by clearing money she claimed was for Huawei, but that was actually for the Iranian tech company Skycom.
She was released on December 11, 2018, on $10 million bail and under electronic surveillance, although she was only formally charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and wire fraud on January 28, 2019. Her extradition case did not begin until January 2020, and the following month, new charges of theft of trade secrets were also brought by the US DOJ.
However, according to her defense team, HSBC knew about Huawei's relationship with Skycom, undermining the US' extradition case.
The case against Meng was strongly criticized by Huawei and the Chinese government, which called her detention a "downright political incident concocted by the United States" and accused Washington of trying to sabotage the reputation and continued financial success of Huawei, the world's largest cell phone maker and a major supplier of 5G technology, among other tech gadgets and services. It was regarded by Beijing as seriously damaging the US-China relationship, alongside other actions such as US sanctions and its military posturing.
Her arrest and extradition case came alongside a wider effort to blacklist Huawei across much of the West, including in the United States and other "Five Eyes" Anglo nations. Washington claimed that Huawei's proximity to the Chinese government gave Beijing leverage to force the company to place "backdoors" in its products that would allow the Chinese government to spy on users of Huawei products, making them a security liability. Both the Chinese government and Huawei denied that such an arrangement existed or that it could even be created if desired.