Huawei Meng CFO free to return to China after reaching deal with US to end extradition

Meng’s deal with the Justice Department resolved charges underlying a US extradition request at the heart of international tensions between the West and Beijing.

Later Friday in Vancouver, BC Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes approved the request to withdraw the extradition order. Attorney John Gibb-Carsley, who made the request, called it the “final chapter” of the case.

Outside the Vancouver courthouse, after his release, Meng thanked Holmes, the Crown and Canada for “upholding the rule of law.”

“Over the past three years, my life has been turned upside down,” Meng said, reading a statement. “It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, wife and business owner. But I believe every cloud has a silver lining. It was truly an invaluable experience in my life … As the saying goes, more the difficulty is greater. the greater the growth. “

Earlier, Holmes thanked the legal teams and Meng.

“Ms. Meng, you have been cooperative and courteous throughout the process, and the court appreciates and thanks you,” said Holmes.

Canada’s Department of Justice released a statement after the hearing that Meng is now free to leave the country.

Canadian police arrested Meng in December 2018 at the Vancouver airport under a US warrant. She is accused of fraud in the United States related to her alleged violation of US sanctions against Iran.

“Not guilty,” Meng told Brooklyn court through an interpreter after Judge Ann Donnelly read the charges against her, which include a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud. wire, a conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

Under the deal, prosecutors will defer charges until December 1, 2022, four years from the day of his arrest. After that date, the government will dismiss the charges as long as it sticks to the agreement.

As part of the deal, Meng admitted the basic facts behind the charges. Her obligations also include that neither she nor her lawyers can publicly challenge the agreed facts. If they do, the case is canceled.

Donnelly ordered his release on personal bail. Once Meng returns to China, it will likely be very difficult for US authorities to get a hold of her or influence her behavior, even if at some point she tries to deny responsibility or say that she does. was forced to make the deal.

The DOJ issued a statement after Meng’s hearing.

Nicole Boeckmann, acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement that Meng’s confession confirms that she made “multiple false statements” regarding Huawei’s business operations in Iran in a bid to preserve the company’s banking relationship with a financial institution.

“Meng’s confession confirms the gist of the government’s allegations in the prosecution of this financial fraud – that Meng and his fellow Huawei employees are engaged in a concerted effort to deceive global financial institutions, the US government, and the public about Huawei’s activities in Iran, ”Boeckmann mentioned.

In the statement, the DOJ said the prosecution team continues to prepare for the lawsuit against Huawei.

“We are eager to prove our case against the company in court,” said Kenneth Polite, deputy attorney general of the criminal division.

Meng’s struggle against extradition from Canada to the United States, which began with his arrest more than 1,000 days ago, has become a key part of the tensions between the West and Beijing.

Beijing’s arrest angered Beijing, which demanded his release. If Meng gets his freedom, it could be seen as a big victory for Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In a July meeting between Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, Beijing’s list of requests included a request for the United States to unconditionally revoke the extradition request. by Meng.

His legal team and representatives from the Department of Justice have been discussing a possible deferred prosecution agreement since last winter.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, previously denied any wrongdoing.

His case angered Beijing. The Chinese government has called the US accusations politically motivated and called Canada an accomplice.

A few days after his arrest, then-President Donald Trump said in an interview that he would be ready to step in in his case whether it would help the United States achieve a trade deal with China or serve other US national security interests.

John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has since rejected the idea of ​​politics being involved in the case of Meng.

Meanwhile, other individuals were caught in the middle.

Nine days after his arrest, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – for espionage.

Spavor, an entrepreneur who introduced basketball legend Dennis Rodman to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison and a date for Kovrig’s verdict has yet to be set.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the arrests of Canadians “arbitrary” and pushed for their release by rallying allies, including President Joe Biden. The president pledged earlier this year to work to free the men, known colloquially in Canada as “Two Michaels”.

According to the readings, Biden and Trudeau discussed Kovrig and Spavor in their conversations and meetings – including on a call this week.

“Human beings don’t trade chips,” Biden said in February after a virtual summit with Trudeau. “We will work together until we get them back safe and sound.”

The trials of the Two Michael have caught the attention of diplomatic circles around the world. As a sign of solidarity, representatives from more than 25 foreign missions joined Canadians at the Ottawa embassy in Beijing last month as the Spavor court ruling was handed down.

Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, has a direct connection to powerful figures close to Biden.

Prior to his appointment, Presidential National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was on the board of the International Crisis Group, which employed Kovrig. And Robert Malley headed the ICG before becoming Biden’s special envoy to Iran; he campaigned publicly for the release of Kovrig.

The Globe and Mail reported on Friday that Meng’s plea deal does not include a deal to release the two Michaels. It remains to be seen whether Canada has its own deal with China that could lead to their eventual release.

A few weeks after their arrests, a Chinese court toughened his sentence for another Canadian, Robert Schellenberg. The court changed his original 15-year sentence for drug trafficking to a death sentence.

Canada has asked for clemency for Schellenberg.

John Kamm, founder and chairman of the Dui Hua Foundation, told POLITICO that his discussions with Chinese officials as late as Thursday evening indicated that the Chinese government would respond to Meng’s release by releasing Spavor and Kovrig and removing Schellenberg from the death corridor.

“I think there will be a decent gap between Meng’s return and the evictions [of the Two Michaels], lest the impression be given that hostage diplomacy was actually practiced, ”said Kamm, who has spent the past 50 years engaging with the Chinese government to free prisoners of conscience in China. “There is a good chance that Schellenberg’s sentence will be reduced by the Supreme Court to a long, fixed sentence or a two-year suspended death sentence, which basically equates to life in prison.”

Canadian affairs have damaged Ottawa’s diplomatic relations with Beijing – and have long been Trudeau’s main foreign policy challenge.

The courtroom development on Friday came days after Trudeau’s re-election.

Since Meng’s arrest, Trudeau has pledged to honor Canada’s extradition treaty with the United States and has spoken about the importance of upholding the rule of law and respecting independent justice.

The Prime Minister has be under national pressure from prominent Canadians to free Meng in order to get Kovrig and Spavor out of detention in China. He firmly rejected the calls, saying it would put other Canadians at risk.

Trudeau has avoided an open confrontation with Beijing in a delicate effort to free Spavor and Kovrig. In dealing with China, Trudeau had to consider how much trade-dependent Canada relies on China, its second-largest partner, to purchase products ranging from iron ore to canola to lobster.

The statement from the Department of Justice of Canada declared Friday evening that it was a “country of law”.

“Meng Wanzhou has benefited from a fair trial process in accordance with Canadian law,” the statement said. “This speaks to the independence of the Canadian justice system. “

Josh Gerstein, Phelim Kine and Leah Nylen contributed to this report.

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