Huawei boss free to return to China after deal with US Justice Department

Meng Wanzhou in court illustration
Huawei Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou in court

A boss of Chinese communications giant Huawei has resolved criminal charges against her as part of a deal with the US Justice Department that paves the way for her to return to China.

The deal with Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, calls for the Justice Department to dismiss fraud charges late next year in exchange for Meng accepting responsibility for misrepresenting her company’s business dealings in Iran.

The arrangement, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, resolves a years-long legal and geopolitical tussle that involved not only the US and China but also Canada, where Meng has remained since she was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018.

As part of the deal, disclosed in federal court in Brooklyn, the Justice Department agreed to dismiss the fraud charges against Meng in December 2022 — exactly four years after her arrest — provided that she complies with certain conditions, including not contesting any of the government’s factual allegations.

The Justice Department also agreed to drop its request that Meng be extradited to the US, which she had vigorously challenged, ending a process that prosecutors said could have persisted for months.

Meng’s lawyers said they fully expect the charges to be dismissed in 14 months. “We’re very pleased that in the meantime she can go home to her family,” said defence lawyer Michelle Levin.

After appearing via videoconference for her New York hearing, Meng made a brief court appearance in Vancouver, where she has been out on bail and living in her mansion since her arrest. The court released her from all her bail conditions and she is now free to leave the country.

Outside the courtroom, Meng thanked the Canadian government for upholding the rule of law, expressed gratitude to the Canadian people and apologised “for the inconvenience I caused”.

“Over the last three years my life has been turned upside down,” she said. “It was a disruptive time for me as a mother, a wife and as a company executive. But I believe every cloud has a silver lining. It really was an invaluable experience in my life. I will never forget all the good wishes I received.”

Last month, a Canadian judge reserved her decision on whether Meng should be extradited to the US after a Canadian Justice Department lawyer wrapped up his case by saying there is enough evidence to show she was dishonest and deserves to stand trial in the US.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, and some analysts say Chinese companies have flouted international rules and norms amid allegations of technology theft.

The company represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been the subject of US security and law enforcement concerns.

It has repeatedly denied the US government’s allegations and the security concerns about its products.

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