Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, returned to China on Friday after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors to drop the bank fraud case against her, easing tensions between the two countries.
Two Canadians who were jailed shortly after Meng was detained in December 2018 were released from Chinese prisons and were on their way back to Canada within hours of the deal’s announcement. Their arrests were not linked, according to Beijing.
The years-long extradition saga has been a source of friction in Beijing’s increasingly strained ties with Washington, with Chinese officials indicating that the matter needs to be dropped to help break the diplomatic deadlock.
The agreement also exposes US President Joe Biden to criticism from China hawks in Washington, who claim that his government is caving into China and one of its biggest businesses at the center of a global technology rivalry.
Meng was arrested on a US warrant at Vancouver International Airport and charged with bank and wire fraud for allegedly deceiving HSBC (HSBA.L) about the telecommunications equipment giant’s business operations in Iran in 2013.
The US and Meng have achieved a deferred prosecution agreement, according to Reuters, in an exclusive story on Friday.Assistant US Attorney David Kessler said the US would move to drop the charges against Meng if she fulfilled all of her responsibilities under the deal, which expires in December 2022, at a hearing in Brooklyn federal court on Friday, which Meng attended virtually from Canada. He also stated that Meng will be released on a personal recognizance bond and that the US intends to withdraw its extradition request to Canada.
During the hearing, Meng pleaded not guilty to the charges. Meng moaned audibly as U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly accepted the deferred prosecution arrangement later. After nearly three years of house imprisonment, a Canadian judge signed Meng’s decree of discharge, removing her bail terms and allowed her to walk free.
She was overcome with emotion after the judge’s decision, hugging and thanking her attorneys. Meng thanked the judge for her “fairness” and described how the case had turned her life “upside-down” as she spoke to supporters and reporters on the court’s steps afterward.
Meng was restricted to her opulent Vancouver home at night and was under the constant surveillance of private security, which she paid for as part of her bail agreement. She was obliged to wear an electronic ankle bracelet to track her activities, which became tabloid fodder when it dangled above her luxury shoes. She was dubbed the “Princess of Huawei” by Chinese official media.