(ATF) The United States is prepared to settle charges against Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who has spent nearly two years fighting extradition from Canada to the US, multiple reports indicated on Friday.
Meng’s lawyers and the US Justice Department have been negotiating, especially since the US presidential election last month, Reuters reported.
The Huawei executive would be allowed to return to China if she agrees to admit certain wrongdoings, according to Reuters and an earlier report in The Wall Street Journal.
The 48-year-old Meng was arrested in Canada in December 2018 on a US warrant. She faces bank fraud charges for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies’ business dealings in Iran, which the US claims violated sanctions against the Tehran regime.
S&P 500 Futures gained eight points, or 0.22% intraday, to 3,672.50 during the initial hour of Tokyo trading as investors absorbed the news of a potential settlement, according to the FXStreet investment site.
The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based newspaper, reported on Thursday that the Canadian government had been pushing the Trump administration to seek an agreement with Meng as a way to free Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were arrested on what are widely seen as trumped-up charges designed to intimidate Ottawa.
No larger deal for Huawei
Reuters reported that the negotiations over Meng do not appear to be part of a larger deal with Huawei.
In January 2019, an indictment was brought against Meng, alleging bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. Huawei and two US subsidiaries, Huawei Device USA and Skycom Tech were also indicted.
Huawei and Skycom were charged with bank fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to violate and substantive violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Huawei and Huawei USA were charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice.
“These charges lay bare Huawei’s blatant disregard for the laws of our country and standard global business practices,” US Federal Bureau of Investigation director Christopher Wray said at the time. “Companies like Huawei pose a dual threat to both our economic and national security, and the magnitude of these charges make clear just how seriously the FBI takes this threat.”
Further charges against Huawei and the subsidiaries were filed in February of this year, alleging conspiracy to violate the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as the Rico statute.
The 16-count indictment stemmed from Huawei's alleged "long-running practice of using fraud and deception" to misappropriate sophisticated technology from US counterparts, the Justice Department said.
Meng’s Canadian lawyers have argued that the Huawei CFO should not be extradited as the charges have been politicised by the administration of Donald Trump as it pursues trade sanctions and other penalties against China.
“Trump's stated desire to use Meng's criminal prosecution as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China violates long-held policies and norms, enshrined in over 50 years of administration policy against political intervention in individual criminal cases,” Michael Gottlieb, a White House lawyer under Barack Obama’s administration, testified at the extradition hearing.
Canadian prosecutors argued that Gottlieb's opinions are neither relevant nor appropriate to an extradition hearing.
The extradition case is scheduled to finish in April 2021. Meng is due back in the British Columbia Supreme Court on Monday.
Meng joined Huawei in 1993 as director of international accounting, later becoming chief financial officer of Huawei Hong Kong, and president of accounting management before being appointed CFO in 2003. She is also the company's deputy chairwoman.
Beijing's reaction on Friday to the latest revelation was fairly predictable.
"Ms Meng Wanzhou is innocent and has not committed any crimes charged by the United States and Canada," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.
"The nature of the Meng Wanzhou incident is very clear – that is, the United States’ attempt to suppress the development of China's high-tech enterprises, while Canada has played a very disgraceful role in it. This is utterly a political event.
China urges the US to immediately withdraw the arrest warrant and extradition request for Ms Meng Wanzhou, and urges Canada to immediately release Ms Meng Wanzhou so that she can return to the motherland safely as soon as possible.
"The US government concocted this incident not out of any legal reasons. Its real purpose is to suppress China's high-tech enterprises and obstruct China's scientific and technological development.
"The Canadian government played the role of an accomplice to the US government ... We once again urge the Canadian government to face up to the issue and make a correct decision in line with justice, law and the fundamental interests of the Canadian people."