The executive at Huawei, Meng Wanzhou is being held in a Vancouver jail over allegedly violating United States sanctions against Iran. More specifically, she is being accused of misleading U.S. banks to clear transactions with Iran. Furthermore, Ms. Meng had previously presented to a large bank (HSBC) where she stated that all operations in Iran conformed with existing U.S. sanctions, which a Canadian prosecutor labeled as fraud. If extradited, which is almost certainly going to be the case, Ms. Meng will be facing up to 30 years in prison. The question now, however, is whether she is going to be granted bail. The case is likely going to take several months, and as a result, she has offered millions in assets to be held, though U.S. officials have commented saying she is a flight risk due to her connections and easy access to passports from either China or Hong Kong. Ms. Meng’s options at this point are few in number, while she can appeal the extradition process all the way up to Canada’s Supreme Court, many see the next chapter of this story occurring within the United States where a case is being built against her.
Huawei Executive’s Lawyers Fight for Bail Ahead of Extradition Decision
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Since Dec. 1, Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of the Chinese technology firm Huawei and a daughter of the company’s founder, has been detained in Vancouver at the behest of American authorities, prompting a diplomatic tussle between China and the United States.
On Monday, Ms. Meng’s lawyers fought for her to be granted bail while she awaits a decision on whether she will be extradited to the United States. The judge, Justice William Ehrcke, is expected to rule on the bail request on Tuesday.
At the bail hearing at British Columbia’s Supreme Court on Monday, Ms. Meng’s lawyers pulled out all the stops to free their client. They brought in executives of two security companies to testify about how they would monitor Ms. Meng if she were to be released. The lawyers said Ms. Meng, 46, would pay the fees for both security companies, submit to physical and electronic monitoring, and give two Vancouver homes and a cash payment to secure bail. The cash and homes would total roughly $15 million in value.
“Given her unique profile as the face of a Chinese corporate national champion, if she were to flee or breach your order in any way in these very unique circumstances, my lord, it does not overstate to say she would embarrass China itself,” one of her lawyers, David Martin, told the judge.
United States authorities have argued in court documents that Ms. Meng should not be released before extradition. They said that her family’s wealth and connections would make it easy for her to flee Canada, and that she had been issued seven different passports from China and Hong Kong in the past 11 years. China and the United States do not have an extradition treaty, they added.
Ms. Meng’s detention has unfolded just as China and the United States are trying to end a brutal trade war. Given Ms. Meng’s stature as a top Chinese executive and Huawei’s position as a leading Chinese technology company, her arrest complicates trade talks and the already rocky relationship between the two countries.
Ms. Meng was arrested on Dec. 1 while between flights in Vancouver, where she had arrived from Hong Kong and was heading to Mexico. Canadian authorities said they detained her at the request of the United States.
At the heart of the case that American authorities appear to be building against Ms. Meng is that she misled financial institutions into making transactions that violated United States sanctions against Iran.
Huawei used a Hong Kong company, Skycom Tech, to make transactions in Iran and do business with telecom companies there, in violation of American sanctions, Canadian prosecutors said on Friday. Banks in the United States cleared financial transactions for Huawei, inadvertently doing business with Skycom. One unnamed bank and its American subsidiary cleared more than $100 million in transactions related to Skycom through the United States between approximately 2010 and 2014, according to an affidavit.
Ms. Meng personally made a presentation to a bank — later disclosed to be HSBC — where she said Huawei and Skycom operated in Iran in compliance with United States sanctions, Canadian prosecutors said. Those statements constituted fraud, they said.
On Monday, the presentation Ms. Meng made to HSBC officials was released in a court filing. The presentation was dated July 2013 — the same month that the British bank became subject to monitoring as part of a settlement with American officials over money-laundering charges involving Iran and other organizations.
Titled “Trust, Compliance & Cooperation,” the presentation described sanctions put in place by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States, and focused on Huawei’s telecom business. It described Skycom as a “business partner” working with Huawei on “sales and services in Iran.” Huawei had held shares of Skycom and put Ms. Meng on the board to provide the supervision necessary to “ensure trade compliance” but gave those up after it instead decided to do business in Iran through a local subsidiary, the presentation said.
According to a letter filed in court from the United State Justice Department, each of the several criminal charges Ms. Meng faces in the United States carries a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment.
During the bail hearing, Justice Ehrcke focused on the immigration status of Ms. Meng’s husband, Liu Xiaozong. Mr. Liu owns the couple’s two homes in Vancouver, but resides primarily in China. It is not clear whether he would need to be a resident of British Columbia to supply assets and provide assurances for Ms. Meng’s bail, the judge said. If she were released, Mr. Liu would be responsible for supervising her and if he offered assets while returning to China, it would be “anathema to the whole point of the exercise,” Justice Ehrcke said.
Mr. Liu is in Canada on a six-month visa but Ms. Meng’s case could last much longer than that, Justice Ehrcke said.
American authorities are working to extradite Ms. Meng. Changes to Canada’s extradition laws in 1999 — which are still widely criticized by human rights groups — mean that about 90 percent of extradition requests heard by courts are granted.
At any extradition hearing, Ms. Meng’s lawyers will not be allowed to introduce evidence, nor will the Canadian government be required to turn over the evidence collected by American authorities. Canada will most likely only present evidence that supports the case for extraditing Ms. Meng.
A Canadian judge cannot turn down the request because he or she finds the evidence weak, it does not meet Canadian standards or because the judge doesn’t believe that the case will succeed at trial. But the judge can disregard evidence that was obtained through torture or evidence that was obtained in Canada in an illegal way.
If, as is likely, the judge rules against Ms. Meng, her extradition becomes a political matter. It will be up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s justice minister, who is a politician, to issue the order to send her to the United States. Jody Wilson-Raybould, the justice minister, is limited in the reasons she can use to overrule the court. The prospect that the person being extradited will face a death sentence is the most common reason Canada will oppose extradition. That is not an issue in this case.
Ms. Meng may have two outs. One is to argue that the request from the United States was motivated by racial or religious prejudice. Ms. Wilson-Raybould can also refuse to issue an order when a case is found to be politically motivated. Ms. Meng’s lawyers may raise recent comments made by Larry Kudlow, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, who told CNBC that Huawei had repeatedly been warned against violating Iranian sanctions.
If the justice minister issues an extradition order, Ms. Meng can go to British Columbia’s appeals court for a judicial review.
If she loses there and the justice minister again issues a removal order, Ms. Meng can try her luck at the Supreme Court of Canada. In the past, the Supreme Court has ruled that the justice minister shouldn’t be second-guessed by the courts except in the most extreme circumstances or when ministers have misinterpreted their legal obligations.
Source: The New York Times, Kate Conger and Ian Austen, Dec. 10, 2018. Photo credit to David Ryder/Reuters.