The CFO of Huawei has flown back to China after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors, who for nearly three years had sought her extradition from Canada to face bank and wire fraud charges.
Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada in December 2018 on a US warrant for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
She has always insisted on her innocence and has been under house arrest in Vancouver under 24/7 surveillance since 2018.
The Huawei CFO’s detention became a microcosm for political and trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. Since Meng’s arrest, Huawei has been ostracised by the West. The UK and many of its allies have banned the telecommunications giant from providing 5G network equipment, citing national security concerns.
Meng, who is sometimes referred to as the “princess of Huawei”, reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the US in which she agreed to the accuracy of the statement of facts while pleading not guilty.
“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.
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Boeckmann added: “Meng’s admissions confirm the crux of the government’s allegations in the prosecution of this financial fraud — that Meng and her fellow Huawei employees engaged in a concerted effort to deceive global financial institutions, the US government and the public about Huawei’s activities in Iran.”
Meng left Canada via a flight to Shenzhen on Friday, according to a Reuters report.
“[Meng] has not pleaded guilty and we fully expect the indictment will be dismissed with prejudice after fourteen months,” said lawyers representing Meng in a statement. “Now, she will be free to return home to be with her family.”
The development is likely to ease some of the political tensions between the US and China. But while the US has dropped its extradition request against Meng, it said it will continue its case against Huawei.
Huawei said it will “continue to defend itself against the allegations in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York”.
After Meng was arrested in 2018, Chinese authorities detained Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig. The Chinese government accused them of spying and stealing state secrets.
The two men had been detained in China for more than 1,000 days, with Spavor sentenced to 11 years in prison for espionage by a Chinese court in August.
The Chinese government has consistently insisted the arrests were not connected to the Huawei CFO.
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. pic.twitter.com/1UoLbBFGNv
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 25, 2021
The two men were released on Friday within hours of Meng’s deal being announced.
“I want to thank our allies and partners around the world in the international community who have stood steadfast in solidarity with Canada and with these two Canadians,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.
Huawei recently announced plans to recruit more international talent by offering higher salaries than the market standard in an expansion push by Ren.
GlobalData’s job analytics dashboard showed a spike in new hires by Huawei in July. Positions were filled primarily in Europe and Asia, with Turkey, Hungary, Japan and Finland topping the list.
By the end of 2020, the company had 197,000 employees worldwide, according to GlobalData’s Intelligence Center.