OTTAWA — U.S. Justice Department officials and Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou have reached a deal to resolve the criminal charges against her, allowing the woman who has been at the centre of a years-long major geopolitical case to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement and be released, under certain terms.
Meng, appearing virtually in a New York courtroom as part of the proceedings, pled “not guilty,” on Friday and will be released 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.
Now that the U.S. court has agreed to the deal, American authorities were expected to “promptly” be notifying the Canadian government that they are withdrawing their extradition request, sparking what is set to be the beginning of the end to a nearly three-year legal and diplomatic saga.
“We are 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,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s National Security Division Mark J. Lesko in a statement.
A second court appearance at the B.C. Supreme Court is expected to occur at 2 p.m. PST, where the extradition proceedings against Meng are expected to be halted, likely resulting in the Chinese telecom giant CFO being able to leave Canada.
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.
“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Nicole Boeckmann in a statement.
“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.
Meng’s lawyer said he was “very pleased” with the deal reached.
“We fully expect the indictment will be dismissed with prejudice after fourteen months. Now, she will be free to return home to be with her family,” said William W. Taylor, III in a statement.
Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti’s office declined to comment on Friday ahead of the U.S. court appearance.
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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