Huawei CFO set to appear in Canada court

No evidence from US, Canada on any law broken, says China, as it reiterates demand for her release

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested under a probe into an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade US sanctions against Iran. PHOTO: REUTERS

VANCOUVER/TORONTO • A top executive of China's Huawei Technologies who was under arrest in Canada was set to appear in a Vancouver court yesterday for a bail hearing as she awaited possible extradition to the United States.

Huawei chief financial officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou, 46, who is also the daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested last Saturday at the request of the US.

The arrest, revealed by the Canadian authorities on Wednesday, was part of a US investigation into an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade US sanctions against Iran, people familiar with the probe told Reuters.

The news roiled global stock markets on fears that the move could escalate a trade war between the US and China despite President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping agreeing on a truce in Argentina last Saturday.

Mr Trump did not know about the arrest in advance, two US officials said on Thursday, in an apparent bid to stop the incident from impeding talks to resolve the trade dispute.

Details of the case against Ms Meng, to be heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, remain sparse. Canada's Justice Department has declined to provide details of the case, and Ms Meng has secured a publication ban, which curbs the media's ability to report on the evidence or documents presented in court.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the arrest was a purely judicial process and that there was no engagement or involvement at the "political level".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said yesterday that neither Canada nor the US had provided China with any evidence that Ms Meng had broken any law in those two countries, and reiterated Beijing's demand that she be released.

The bail hearing could be just a preliminary session to set out a schedule, lawyers said.

The Crown counsel was expected to argue that Ms Meng posed a flight risk and should be kept in a detention facility, legal experts said.

The onus would be on Ms Meng's lawyer to provide evidence that she would not flee, they added.

Huawei, which has confirmed that Ms Meng was arrested, said on Wednesday that "the company has been provided very little information regarding the charges, and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng".

Huawei staff briefed in an internal memo told Reuters yesterday that the company had appointed chairman Liang Hua as acting CFO following Ms Meng's arrest.

If granted bail, Ms Meng would likely have to post one with "a surety of several million dollars", said Vancouver lawyer Gary Botting, who has experience with extradition cases.

She would also have to give up her passport, he said.

Ms Meng could also be fitted with electronic monitoring equipment, and the court could go so far as to order security to monitor her while she awaits a decision on extradition, lawyers said.

If Ms Meng fights extradition, her case could go on for years, lawyers said, pointing to examples such as Lai Changxing, a Chinese businessman who fled to Canada after he was implicated in a bribery case and fought extradition to China for 12 years.

If Ms Meng chooses not to fight, she could be in the US within weeks, experts said.

Huawei, which employs about 1,000 people in Canada, faces intense scrutiny from many Western nations over its ties to the Chinese government, driven by concerns it could be used by Beijing for spying.

The US has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei violated US sanctions against Iran, Reuters reported in April.

More recently, the probe has included the company's use of HSBC Holdings to make illegal transactions involving Iran, people familiar with the investigation said.

HSBC is not under investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Huawei, which generated US$93 billion (S$127 billion) in revenue last year and is seen as a national champion in China, has said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and other regulations.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2018, with the headline Huawei CFO set to appear in Canada court. Subscribe