The US Justice Department has reportedly intensified talks with Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, on a deal which would see her released from Canadian custody in exchange for admitting wrongdoing.
Meng, Huawei chief financial officer and daughter of the company’s founder, is currently on bail and remains confined to Vancouver. She was arrested in the Canadian city two years ago on a US request while transferring flights. Now she is fighting a protracted battle against extradition to the US, where she was accused of fraud, which US prosecutors allege she had committed to do business with Iran in violation of American sanctions.
The US Department of Justice is offering Meng a “deferred prosecution agreement” – a deal under which she would admit to some of the charges – but, in exchange, the prosecution of the case would be delayed and potentially eventually dropped, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. This would allow the Chinese businesswoman to leave Canada and return to China, where she would be out of reach of US justice.
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The negotiations have been intensified after last month’s presidential election, as the prosecutors want to reach a deal before the Trump administration leaves office, the newspaper reported. The report was corroborated by Reuters, though neither outlet named any of its sources.
The US accuses Meng of conspiring to defraud HSBC and other banks by misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with a company that Washington claims serves as a front for Iran to do business with Huawei. Her lawyers said the US has twisted the meaning of their client’s 2013 presentation cited in court papers. According to reports, Meng is reluctant to accept the US bargain because she doesn’t believe she is guilty of any crime.
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Beijing considers the case part of a broader US campaign to curtail Chinese companies’ activities on international markets. Washington claims Huawei telecommunications equipment poses a threat, opening a door for Chinese espionage and cyberattacks against whoever uses it, which the company denies. The US has been pressuring its allies, with various degrees of success, into banning the company from bidding for contracts to modernize phone networks to 5G in said countries.
The arrest soured China’s relationship with Canada. Nine days after it happened, two Canadian men were arrested in China on unrelated charges, which Ottawa believes to be a form of retaliation. Beijing denies any connection between the cases.
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