Huawei CFO and detained Canadians return home following wrap up of extradition charges

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was allowed to return to China after agreeing to admit she misled global financial institutions about her company's operations in Iran.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor and  Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou's extradition lawsuit wrapped up over the weekend, ending a near three-year saga that saw her placed under house arrest for almost the entirety of that period. On the same day, two Canadians who were detained in China for over 1,000 days were similarly released and returned to Canada.

Meng was allowed to return to China after she reached an agreement with United States prosecutors to admit to misleading global financial institutions.

"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," Eastern District of New York Acting Attorney-General Nicole Boeckmann said in a statement.

"Her admissions in the statement of facts confirm that, while acting as the chief financial officer for Huawei, Meng made multiple material misrepresentations to a senior executive of a financial institution regarding Huawei's business operations in Iran in an effort to preserve Huawei's banking relationship with the financial institution."

The admission entails agreeing to a four-page statement of facts accepting that she knowingly communicated false statements to financial institutions.

In January 2019, the United States government unsealed a pair of indictments against Huawei, with the first being against the company and Meng, and the second alleging Huawei conspired to steal intellectual property from T-Mobile and subsequently obstructed justice.

For the indictment issued against Meng, she was accused of misrepresenting Huawei's ownership and control of Iranian affiliate Skycom to banks to launder money via the international banking system, which breached United Nations, United States, and European Union sanctions. Meng was detained and arrested by Canadian authorities on the United States' behalf just prior to the charges being unsealed.

By making those allegations, the United States wanted to extradite Meng to the United States to face those charges locally. This led to an extradition battle within Canada to determine whether Canadian authorities should pass Meng to the United States.

Throughout the extradition proceedings, Meng was released on bail and placed under house arrest in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government detained two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, shortly after Meng's arrest, accusing them of spying and stealing state secret secrets from China.

By entering into the agreement, Meng admitted only to misleading global financial institutions, and did not plead guilty to the various fraud charges imposed against her.

Huawei in a statement said it was happy to see "Meng Wanzhou returning home safely to be reunited with her family".

The company also continued to deny the allegations made by the United States in the statement, saying it would continue to defend itself in court as the indictments are still ongoing.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the allegations were "political persecution against a Chinese citizen and its aim is to suppress Chinese high-tech companies", according to a Chinese state media outlet.

Meng and the two Canadians arrived back in their respective countries on Saturday, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau posting pictures of Kovrig and Spavor's return on Twitter.

"Welcome home, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. You've shown incredible strength, resilience, and perseverance. Know that Canadians across the country will continue to be here for you, just as they have been," he tweeted.

Huawei looking to fill $40 billion hole in revenue from handset business

Speaking on Friday, Huawei rotating chair Eric Xu said other areas of the business have not compensated for the loss of revenue due to the company being added to the US Entity List in 2019.

When a company is on the Entity list, US companies are banned from transferring technology to them unless the US company has received licence approval from the US government.

In its latest yearly financial results, Huawei posted net profit of 64.6 billion yuan, but its growth in markets outside of China grounded to a halt. The company sold off its Honor business at the end of 2020, and has been focusing on increasing the use of 5G in areas such as mining.

"Other areas [are] certainly not compensate for the revenue loss of the handset business. Not just in one year, even those revenues throughput 10 years combined cannot compensate for the decline in revenue," Xu said through an interpreter.

"It will take a rather long time for us to compensate for the $30-40 billion loss applying 5G and other technologies to other industry sectors."

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