Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou appears in court as Canada mulls over extradition

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou appeared in a Canadian court for the first time in over a month on Tuesday.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou appeared in a Canadian court for the first time in over a month on Tuesday.

VANCOUVER • Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer, the central figure in a high-stakes dispute between the world's two largest economies, made her first appearance in a Canadian court in more than a month as Ottawa weighs extraditing the Chinese executive to the United States.

Meng Wanzhou, daughter of the Chinese telecommunications company's founder, attended the hearing on Tuesday at the British Columbia Supreme Court, where Justice William Ehrcke approved her request for a change to her bail bond guarantor.

Canada arrested Meng on Dec 1 at the request of the US, which on Monday brought sweeping charges against Huawei and Meng that paint the company as a threat to US national security. Meng was charged with bank and wire fraud to violate American sanctions against Iran.

"I can confirm that the US has filed a formal request with my department for the extradition of Ms Meng," Justice Minister David Lametti told reporters in Ottawa.

Canada's government now has a month to decide if the US extradition request is strong enough to be presented to a British Columbia court. Mr Lametti, when asked whether a decision could come sooner than 30 days, said officials "will take the time they need to make an enlightened decision based on the evidence in front of them."

Neither Mr Lametti nor Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland gave any hints on whether Canada would back the extradition request. Ms Freeland told reporters Meng "has been afforded access to Canada's impartial and objective judicial system".

On Dec 11, Mr Ehrcke approved Meng's release on C$10 million (S$10.2 million) bail, and she has since stayed at a family residence in Vancouver.

 
 
 

At Tuesday's hearing, Mr Ehrcke also postponed Meng's next scheduled court appearance by a month to March 6, which comes after the 30-day extradition decision deadline.

The arrest of Meng, who is fighting extradition, further aggravated US-China tensions at a time when the two economic powerhouses are locked in a trade war.

China's foreign ministry has urged the US to drop the arrest warrant against Meng and end "unreasonable suppression" of Chinese companies. China has also demanded the executive's immediate release.

In Ottawa, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Canada's decision on whether to ban Huawei from supplying equipment to 5G networks is "some ways off into the future". Mr Goodale's comments were the most specific indication from Ottawa on the timing of the politically-sensitive announcement.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2019, with the headline 'Huawei exec appears in court as Canada mulls over extradition'. Print Edition | Subscribe