US in talks with Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou over resolution of criminal charges
The US Department of Justice is discussing a deal with Huawei Technologies Co. chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou that would allow her to return home to China from Canada in exchange for confessing wrongdoing in a criminal case that has strained Beijing’s relations with the United States and Canada, people familiar with the case said.
Lawyers for Ms Meng, who faces electronic and bank fraud charges related to alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran on Huawei’s behalf, have discussed with Justice Department officials in recent weeks the possibility to reach a “deferred prosecution agreement,” the people said. .
Under such a deal, which prosecutors typically use with businesses but rarely grant to individuals, Ms. Meng would be required to admit some of the allegations against her, but prosecutors would agree to postpone and drop. later the charges if she cooperated, the people mentioned.
Ms Meng has so far resisted the proposed deal, believing she had done nothing wrong, some people said. She declined to comment through a spokesperson for Huawei. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice declined to comment. Canadian officials did not immediately return requests for comment
Arrested two years ago while transferring planes to Vancouver, Ms. Meng has been confined to the city, where she has a home. She has since fought extradition to the United States – a process of multiple appeals that can take years to resolve – and her plight has for many in China personified Washington’s attempts to hinder the country’s global rise.
A deal would not only allow him to return to China, it would eliminate a problem that has brought down Beijing’s relations with Ottawa and added to a downward spiral in relations with Washington. A deal could also pave the way for China to return two Canadian men who were detained there shortly after Ms Meng’s arrest, a factor in part motivating the talks, people said.
The Trump administration views Huawei as a threat to national security and says Ms. Meng’s activities on behalf of Huawei’s work in Iran are part of a pattern of corporate wrongdoing. The US actions angered Beijing, which accuses Washington of discriminating against Huawei and called on Canada to release Ms. Meng.
Negotiators from Ms. Meng and the Justice Department are speaking again this week in hopes of reaching a deal before the end of the Trump administration, some people have said. Huawei officials are also hoping a Biden administration could be more lenient, some people said. A spokesperson for Mr Biden did not respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Meng’s attorneys and Justice Ministry officials are working to determine whether there are terms the two sides can agree to, two people said. Ms Meng recently refused to approve a draft deal because she disagreed with how her communications with some of Huawei’s financial institutions were portrayed, one person said.
Ms Meng is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of Huawei, one of China’s leading companies and a global pioneer of telecommunications equipment which the United States says is stealing technology and may encourage espionage. from Beijing. The company has denied these allegations.
Ms Meng argued that she had been wrongly accused and that the extradition request was improperly politically motivated at a time when the United States was seeking the upper hand in protracted trade and technology tensions with China.
The case against Ms Meng centers on allegations that she lied to Huawei’s banks during a presentation in 2013 about the Chinese company’s trade ties with Iran. Financial institutions then authorized hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions that could violate US sanctions against Iran.
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Ms Meng’s attorneys told the Canadian court in June that the United States had made “reckless misrepresentation” by excluding part of her banking presentation that they said cited Huawei’s activities in Iran.
In May, a British Columbia judge ruled that the United States had passed a key test to extradite him, but additional hearings are expected to continue later this month and next year. She is currently on bail and must wear an ankle monitor.
His arrest sparked a major diplomatic standoff, in which two Canadians, including a diplomat on leave of duty, were detained and charged earlier this year with espionage.
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in June that the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are unacceptable and “of deep concern not only to Canadians but to people around the world who see China using arbitrary detentions for political ends” .
Mr Spavor’s family have not spoken publicly about his arrest and Mr Kovrig’s wife has said he is innocent.
In recent weeks, the Chinese Communist Party-led Global Times has specifically identified Ms Meng’s case as an area in which Beijing hopes to see a change in position from the new Biden administration.
A former Justice Department national security official David Laufman said the case was a flagship prosecution and while prosecutors can weigh geopolitical interests, he does not expect a Department to Biden Justice drops the case.
“It would be exceptional for the Ministry of Justice to waive a criminal conviction. But there are times when law enforcement interests reasonably give way to overriding US foreign policy interests, ”said Laufman, now in private practice with the law firm. Wiggin and Dana LLP, referring to the Trump administration negotiations. . “Considering the impact of the Meng lawsuit on Canada as well as on US-China relations, this could be one of those cases.”
While a deal to effectively release Ms Meng would likely help ease tensions between governments, the episode contributed to a downward trajectory of Canadian views on China, according to opinion polls, in large part because of the detention of the two Canadian men. .
China has vehemently denied any direct connection between Ms. Meng’s arrest and those of Messrs. Kovrig and Spavor, which took place within hours of each other in two Chinese cities, nine days after Ms. Meng’s arrest. Chinese diplomats have suggested, however, that resolving Ms. Meng’s case would help secure the freedom of the two Canadians.
Negotiations to release Ms Meng on conditions began months before the November presidential election, although they have grown more urgent in recent weeks as the end of the Trump administration approaches.
The Justice Department’s prosecution of Huawei is part of a larger Trump administration effort against the tech company. The United States has said Huawei could be forced by Beijing to use its equipment to spy on or disrupt foreign networks, which the company has denied.
Prosecutors unveiled new charges earlier this year, accusing the company and two of its U.S. subsidiaries of racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets. U.S. sanctions have limited the company’s ability to secure crucial chip supplies and have encouraged other countries to avoid its equipment for new 5G mobile communications network equipment.
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Senior US counterintelligence official William Evanina told the Aspen Cyber Summit on Wednesday that the indictment against Huawei had been particularly helpful in persuading European allies to heed US concerns about the giant. of technology.
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