VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) – A Canadian judge granted Huawei Technologies CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou’s request for bail Tuesday, convinced the property put up by friends and family and comprehensive monitoring will be enough to keep her from fleeing U.S. authorities who say she defrauded international banks by misleading them about Huawei's dealings in Iran despite international sanctions.
Canadian authorities arrested Meng on Dec. 1, after the U.S. government sent a provisional warrant based on allegations that “starting in at least 2009, Meng and others conspired to make misrepresentations to numerous financial institutions.”
“The motivation for these misrepresentations stemmed from Huawei’s need to move money out of countries that are subject of U.S. or EU sanctions – such as Iran, Syria, or Sudan – through the international banking system,” the warrant states.
According to an affidavit by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, U.S. authorities uncovered a conspiracy between Meng and others at Huawei to misrepresent to banks – including Hong Kong-based HSBC – the company’s control of Skycom between 2009 and 2014. Specifically, the affidavit says Meng and others lied about Skycom being operated as Huawei’s Iran affiliate in order to obtain and keep banking services from multinational institutions despite sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union.
The United States now seeks to have Meng extradited to the Southern District of New York.
At the third and final day of bail hearings before Justice William Ehrcke in Vancouver on Tuesday, Meng sat silent and motionless as her lawyer David J. Martin thanked his legal colleagues for working overnight "to assist the court" digging through case law to support Meng's bid for release. He also submitted affidavits of possible alternate sureties amid doubts as to whether Meng’s husband can act as surety since he’s not a resident of Canada.
Meng’s Vancouver real estate agent Robert Cheng offered to put up his house as security for her bail. A former Huawei employee who knew Meng in the mid-1990s offered $500,000 of their home’s equity. A homemaker whose husband used to work at Huawei offered $850,000 of equity in her $6 million Vancouver home. A neighbor who lives near Meng's summer home in Vancouver – a part-time yoga teacher and Canadian citizen since 2003 – brought a $50,000 check to the courtroom for Meng's bail, Martin said.
"We have complete confidence in Ms. Meng's ability to follow all terms of her release," the affidavits say, as read by Martin in court before handing them to the court clerk.
"If you want to know someone, talk to their neighbors," Martin said, adding later that those who came forward with their homes and money are clearly "people who have confidence in Ms. Meng." He said case law allows residency concerns of a potential surety to be "ameliorated" when combined with other sureties, who volunteer to act as so-called community jailers.
As to the immigration issues of Meng’s husband, a venture capitalist known by his anglicized name Carlos Liu, Martin said Liu has several options to meet residency requirements and extend his stay in Canada beyond the six months his current visa allows if necessary.
In light of the independent sureties, millions in assets and property and a comprehensive monitoring plan to ensure Meng's compliance, Martin implored Justice Ehrcke to release his client.
Gibb-Carsley told Ehrcke the Attorney General of Canada opposes Meng's release, and said the interests of Meng and her husband are "too aligned." Furthermore, he said, since their "ordinary settled life" is elsewhere Liu would likely follow Meng if she decided to flee.
"If she made that decision, he would go," he said. "Any loss that Mr. Liu felt could be compensated by Ms. Meng."
Moreover, Gibb-Carsley said Liu isn't the appropriate choice for surety because of his temporary immigration status.
"They don't have a long-term right to be here," he said of Meng and Liu, adding Liu would be at the mercy of immigration authorities who could deny him an extension of his visa. "It diminishes their ability to be jailer in the community."
He continued: "Mr. Liu should be excluded from being a surety. There should be a significant amount of cash, as well as sureties who are able to supervise."
In the end, Ehrcke imposed more than a dozen conditions on Meng, including a $10 million surety – $7 million of which must be cash from her husband – and another $3 million in other sureties. She must behave, report to a bail supervisor regularly, remain in Vancouver and at home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
She will be monitored around the clock by Lion Gate Risk Management and will wear a GPS ankle bracelet.
Ehrcke said he gave "very little weight" to the idea that Meng avoided traveling to the U.S. to evade prosecution, noting citizens of many countries have had "myriad good reasons" not to travel there over the last two years.
He also said her lawyers had proposed conditions that are "sufficient to offset the risk of flight," the only reason the U.S. gave for opposing bail.
"I'm sure everyone will agree that this has been an unusual case," Ehrcke said.
Meng will return to court on Feb. 6, 2019. The extradition process could take six months or more.
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