Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou loses British court bid to access HSBC records

Meng Wanzhou is facing charges of bank fraud in the US for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran.
Meng Wanzhou is facing charges of bank fraud in the US for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - A senior executive for the Chinese tech giant Huawei lost a British High Court bid on Friday (Feb 19) to access banking records which she said would help her battle extradition from Canada to the United States. 

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou – whose father is the Chinese company’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei – has been in a two-year battle against extradition over charges Huawei violated US sanctions on Iran. 

Meng is accused in the US of defrauding HSBC by falsely misrepresenting links between Huawei and a company that sold telecoms equipment to Iran. 

In the UK ruling, High Court Judge Michael Fordham rejected the application and ordered Meng to pay £80,000 (S$149,000) towards HSBC’s legal costs. 

The judge said the Canadian court in Vancouver, where the executive’s extradition hearing is being considered, was the “appropriate forum” to decide whether the HSBC records were necessary for a fair hearing. 

“I have no real confidence that I am properly equipped to judge whether and if so what HSBC documents would be needed to secure a fair hearing for the applicant in Canada,” he said. 

Meng’s arrest on a US warrant during a Vancouver stopover in December 2018 – and Beijing’s subsequent detention of two Canadians – caused a major diplomatic rift between Canada and China. She has denied hiding Huawei’s relationship with the covert subsidiary Skycom in Iran from HSBC. 

She has been under house arrest in Canada since being detained in Vancouver and has become one of the most high-profile figures in a trade war between China and the US. 

In a High Court hearing last week, her lawyer James Lewis said there were “compelling grounds” to show the bank had not been misled. In January, a Canadian judge rejected Meng’s request to relax her bail conditions as she fights extradition.

According to documents seen by Canada’s public broadcaster CBC, her defence believe Canada would violate international law by extraditing Meng as her alleged actions have no connection to the US. 

Her lawyers also claim her rights were violated when she was arrested at the Vancouver airport and that sensitive information about her was passed on to the FBI, which Canada denies. 

The final hearings to determine whether Meng will be extradited are scheduled for May.