Update (7 pm ET): Friday’s bail hearing was adjourned without a ruling on whether Meng is to be freed on bail. The Canadian government is arguing against it, citing Meng’s immense resources and lack of a connection to Canada. Meanwhile, her lawyer has argued that her family fortune cannot be held against her.
The hearing will resume on Monday.
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During the first hearing of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng, Canadian prosecutors have revealed the charges over which the US is seeking her extradition: She has been accused of conspiracy to defraud banks due to what prosecutors allege was an attempt to cover up transactions involving a Huawei subsidiary that violated US sanctions against Iran.
Appearing in court wearing a green jumpsuit and without handcuffs, Meng reportedly looked to be in good spirits in a Vancouver courtroom where the prosecutions’ case was detailed publicly for the first time.
Despite the gravity of the allegations against her, Meng displayed a light-hearted demeanor as she entered the court, smiling and laughing as she conferred with her lawyer, David Martin, and at one point during the proceedings, she even flashed him a ‘thumbs up.’
But her sunny demeanor soon faded as the Canadian government’s lawyer, John Gibb-Carsley, launched into a description of the allegations facing Meng – namely, that she was being charged with multiple “fraud offenses” under Canadian law involving her work to knowingly violate sanctions against Iran imposed by the US and EU.
Specifically, Gibb-Carsley alleged that, between 2009 and 2014, Meng helped conceal the relationship of Skycom, a subsidiary of Huawei with close ties to its parent company, even misrepresenting the nature of the relationship to banks in 2013, according to the South China Morning Post.
Meng used this deception to lure banks into facilitating transactions that violated US sanctions, exposing them to possible fines, Gibb-Carsley said, though he didn’t name the banks (however, US media on Thursday reported that a federal monitor at HSBC flagged a suspicious transaction involving Huawei to US authorities).
The Canadian lawyer also accused Meng of having avoided traveling to the US after she learned about a warrant for her arrest issued by a New York judge back in August. Previously, she had routinely traveled to the US to visit her son, who was attending a boarding school in China.
There had been some doubt after the US asked for her arrest and extradition about whether Meng’s offenses constituted violations of Canadian law – a necessary precondition for her arrest. But ultimately, Canadian legal authorities determined that her deceitful behavior constituted fraud.
When the judged moved on to the task of setting bail for Meng, Gibb-Carsley argued that executive should be held in custody because she’s a flight risk whose bail could not be set high enough. Meng is facing multiple fraud charges, each of which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years each (another reason for her to be held, Canadian prosecutors said).
Martin, Meng’s lawyer, argued that her family wealth can’t be used as a “prohibition against bail.”
Meng engaged in an “extensive pattern of dishonesty,” Gibb-Carsley said as he opposed bail for Meng, claiming that she has “no meaningful connection” to Canada. Meng owns two homes in Vancouver and a husband who lives in the city, but the government argued that her husband “is not a jailer” and pointed out that her father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is worth upwards of $30 billion. By comparison, the value of the Vancouver homes owned by Meng “is not even in the same universe.”
Before Friday’s hearing, a publication ban prevented details about the charges facing Meng from being released. However, that ban was lifted at the beginning of her hearing. Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Saturday while on her way to Mexico, according to reports in the Canadian Press.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada’s ambassador in Beijing had briefed the Chinese foreign ministry on Meng’s arrest. The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa had branded Meng’s detention as a “serious violation of human rights” as senior Chinese officials debate the prospects for retaliation. Freeland said McCallum told the Chinese that Canada is simply following its laws – echoing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that Meng’s arrest was the result of a legal process happening independent of politics.
Friday’s hearing in Vancouver is just the start of a legal process that could end with Meng being extradited to stand trial in the US. Even if prosecutors believe there is little doubt as to Meng’s guilt, the extradition process could take months or even years.