Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou free after reaching deal with US prosecutors
(Update 1: adds Beijing reaction, Meng’s comments, release of Canadians in China)
New York/Beijing, Sep 24 (EFE).- The United States dropped its request for the extradition from Canada of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on fraud charges after the parties agreed on a deferred prosecution deal, the US Department of Justice said Friday.
Soon after the accord was announced, a Canadian judge signed an order allowing Meng to leave for China after spending nearly three years under house arrest.
Meng, now 49, was detained by Canada on Dec. 1, 2018, during a stopover in Vancouver en route from Hong Kong to Mexico City.
Washington asked the Canadians to arrest her on charges that she violated US sanctions on Iran by misleading banks about the business her company allegedly conducted in that country through a subsidiary called Skycom.
On Friday, the Huawei executive pleaded not guilty during an appearance via video-link before a federal judge in New York. But she also submitted a statement of fact that largely conceded the truth of the accusations.
“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,” the acting US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Nicole Boeckmann, said in a statement.
“Meng’s admissions confirm the crux of the government’s allegations in the prosecution of this financial fraud – that Meng and her fellow Huawei employees engaged in a concerted effort to deceive global financial institutions, the US government and the public about Huawei’s activities in Iran,” the prosecutor said.
As long as Meng complies with the deferred prosecution pact, the US will drop the charges against her on Dec. 1, 2022.
During a press conference outside the Supreme Court of British Columbia following her release, a smiling Meng thanked the judge on her case, Heather Holmes, and the Canadian government for their “professionalism” and upholding “the rule of law.”
Meng, who read a statement and did not accept questions from the media, said that the last three years her life “was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and a company executive” but added that it was an “invaluable experience.”
Out on bail in Vancouver since December 2018, she had been living with her family in one of the two mansions that she owns in the Canadian city. She was required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and pay for her own 24/7 surveillance.
After her arrest, China froze diplomatic and trade relations with Canada and accused Ottawa of violating the human rights of one of its citizens.
Days after her arrest, Beijing detained two Canadian citizens — former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor — on allegations of espionage, widely thought to be in retaliation.
The pair were released by China on Friday and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced they were on a plane home to Canada.
Chinese state media outlet Global Times on Saturday (Beijing time) welcomed Meng’s release but made no mention of Spavor and Kovrig’s.
Chinese experts cited by the newspaper said the “exciting” news that the US and Meng had finally reached an agreement may help ease frictions in the China-US relations.
The newspaper described the proceedings against Meng as illegal and said that the factors that had led to the decision included “the consistent attitude of the Chinese government in urging the US and Canada to release Meng, and the mounting pressure that Canada has been facing as it clearly knows that if it insists on the extradition of Meng to the US, it would create irretrievable negative consequences on China-Canada relations.”
“Canada has been persuading the US to drop the case. For the Biden administration, it has been evaluating US-China relations from the position of strength over the past eight months, and it understands that if it drops the charges against Meng, such progress would meet the expectation for improving bilateral ties,” said another expert cited by the Global Times. EFE