Canada drops extradition matter after Meng Wanzhou strikes deal with U.S. justice officials

OTTAWA / TORONTO — A B.C. judge has discharged the extradition matter against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou after U.S. Justice Department officials reached a deal to resolve the criminal charges against her, allowing Meng, who has been at the centre of a years-long major geopolitical case, to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement and leave Canada, under certain terms.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes signed the order of discharge in Meng’s extradition case on Friday afternoon, ending a nearly three-year legal saga.

Holmes thanked Meng for her behaviour during the hearing and released her from bail conditions.

Speaking outside the courthouse to reporters, Meng thanked Holms for her “fairness” during the proceedings, as well as her lawyers, family and friends for helping her through this “tough time.”

“I also appreciate the Crown for their professionalism, and the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law,” Meng said. “I’m also grateful to the Canadian people and media friends for your tolerance. Sorry for the inconvenience caused.”

Over the past three years, Meng said her life has been “turned upside down.”

Meng — who is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei — has been under house arrest in Vancouver since she was first taken into custody at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant related to the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Facing charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and wire fraud, Meng has claimed her innocence throughout the process, and has been fighting the extradition through Canadian courts.

The discharge of the extradition matter comes after the Chinese telecom giant CFO appeared virtually in a New York courtroom Friday morning and pled “not guilty” to all charges and a U.S. judge signed off on a deferred prosecution agreement.

“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… Meng’s admissions confirm the crux of the government’s allegations in the prosecution of this financial fraud,” read the statement, which details at length the agreed statement of facts in the case.

The judge allowed the release of Meng on a personal recognizance bond, with the charges against her set to be dismissed pending good behaviour, as of Dec. 1, 2022, four years to the day when she was taken into custody at Vancouver International Airport in 2018.

“Meng also has agreed not to commit other federal, state or local crimes. If Meng breaches the agreement, she will be subject to prosecution of all the charges against her in the third superseding indictment filed in this case,” read the statement.

Following the ruling in B.C., Canada’s Department of Justice issued a statement confirming that the U.S. had dropped its extradition request.

“As a result, there is no basis for the extradition proceedings to continue and the Minister of Justice’s delegate has withdrawn the Authority to Proceed, ending the extradition proceedings. The judge released Meng Wanzhou from all of her bail conditions. Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada,” the statement read.

The Department of Justice said “Canada is a rule of law country” and that Meng was “afforded a fair process before the courts in accordance with Canadian law.”

“This speaks to the independence of Canada’s judicial system,” the statement read.

Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division Mark J. Lesko said in a statement that the U.S. is “enormously grateful” to Canada’s Department of Justice for its “dedicated work on this extradition and for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law.”

Meng’s lawyer said in a statement following the decision in the U.S. that he was “very pleased” with the deal reached.

“We fully expect the indictment will be dismissed with prejudice after 14 months. Now, she will be free to return home to be with her family,” said William W. Taylor, III.

CTV News has spoken with one source who says Meng’s deferred prosecution negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice have been underway for months, and did not include any agreement related to the ongoing detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China.

Kovrig and Spavor were detained just days after Meng’s arrest and have now been in Chinese custody for 1,019 days on espionage charges that have largely been viewed as a retaliatory response to Canada’s arrest of Meng.

Both men have stood trial, and Spavor has been handed down an 11-year sentence, while Kovrig has yet to be sentenced. It’s not clear if today’s developments would have any impact on their cases.

“I’d like to be able to say ‘next Tuesday at one o’clock, they’ll be home,’ but the Chinese regime does not work like that. It’s possible that more concessions may be taken out from Canada to get them back home,” said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a science, society and policy senior fellow at the University of Ottawa in an interview on CTV News Channel. “But certainly behind the scenes, our ambassador will be working furiously with his people on the ground in Beijing to press for their immediate release.”

Canadian officials acting on the U.S. request inflamed diplomatic tensions between Canada and China, and over the years relations have been considerably strained, resulting in a series of trade actions, and a rallying of international allies in condemnation of China’s bucking of international rule of law.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has previously shot down suggestions that Canada should consider exchanging the two Canadians for Meng, citing the need for the matter to work its way through the legal system.

This came after a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry suggested in 2020 that Canada halting its attempt to extradite Meng could affect the fates of Kovrig and Spavor, a departure from China’s consistent denials that the cases were in any way connected.

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