Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou granted bail by Vancouver judge
A senior executive of a multinational Chinese telecommunications company was granted bail by a judge in Vancouver Tuesday.
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei who is facing fraud allegations, learned the decision after a days-long hearing that saw the defence outline a release plan that included near-constant monitoring of her whereabouts.
As the judge delivered his reasoning, he said Meng has no criminal record in China or elsewhere, and that she has various health problems.
Justice William Ehrcke said Meng was arrested on a provisional warrant, and the U.S. has not completed documentation regarding an official extradition request. American officials have 60 days to complete the request.
He said his main concern was whether Meng would show up to scheduled court dates, and whether she is a flight risk. Ehrcke said his purpose in the case was to determine if the plan put forward by the defence mitigated risks identified by the Crown and American officials.
Conditions for her release
Ultimately, Ehrcke decided he was satisfied with the submissions from the defence. He agreed to the CFO's release with bail set at $7 million in cash and $3 million in equity from several sureties.
In addition to the money, she has to remain in B.C., live at one of her Vancouver homes and have 24/7 surveillance. She will live under an overnight curfew, and must allow the security companies in charge of her monitoring to gain access to her home.
Meng must pay for all security costs associated with her release plan, and will surrender both her passports. She must return to court on Feb. 2 for further proceedings.
In a statement, Huawei Technologies said it had "every confidence the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach a just conclusion in the following proceedings."
The company said it complies with all applicable laws and regulations and looks forward to a timely resolution.
Sanctions violated? Meng maintains her innocence
The 46-year-old is facing allegations of fraud for using a shell company to violate the U.S.-European Union trade sanctions against Iran. She's also alleged to have deceived banks about the relationship between Huawei and the subsidiary, Skycom.
None of the allegations have been proven in court, and while the U.S. issued an arrest warrant, no charges have been laid.
- Read the court documents in the Meng Wanzhou case
In an affidavit, Meng maintains she's innocent, and says she would agree to all conditions, staying in Vancouver to fight her extradition.
American officials hoped Meng would remain in custody, arguing that she could represent a flight risk. Meng's father, who founded the company, has a net worth of $3.2 billion, and court documents show the U.S. attorney's office believes over 11 years she's been issued seven passports.
Her lawyer said she currently holds two, both of which she would voluntarily surrender. Ehrcke said the number of passports was not a concern, provided they are surrendered.
The court heard previously that Meng had been avoiding the U.S. since learning of a criminal investigation into her alleged actions. Ehrcke said the number of passports was not a concern, but required that she give them up while on bail.
During the hearing, a federal prosecutor argued that while Meng and her husband own two Vancouver properties, she has no real reason to remain in the city if let out. The Crown asked for bail to be set at $7.5 million in cash, and $7.5 million in property assets.
Her legal team argued that, as a prominent figure, a breach of a court order could hurt Meng's reputation. Instead, they suggested bail be set at $1 million, and that she would also put up her properties valued at $14 million.
How Meng will be monitored
Under a plan put forward by the defence and supported by the judge, Meng will assigned a driver and security detail. She will be subject to electronic monitoring by ankle bracelet, which will be affixed immediately upon her release from custody. She will be monitored by two companies both electronically and physically, her lawyer vowed.
The defence also offered several options for who will serve as sureties while she awaits the possible extradition hearing.
Initially, her legal team had suggested her husband would fill the role of her "jailer" while out on bail. Also on the list was a member of the private security firm Meng would hire to monitor her movements in a zone that spans from Richmond to the North Shore.
Following criticisms from both the judge and the federal prosecutors, Meng's lawyer, David Martin, offered Tuesday that they'd put forward a team that included several new sureties.
Who's vouching for her?
Her husband is still on the list, despite concerns that his visitor visa expires in February. Martin said he has had multiple entry visas to Canada, studied in the country for some time and, as a venture capitalist, can work anywhere.
Prosecutor John Gibbs-Carsley argued he should be removed from any potential release order due to their close relationship. However, if he was removed from the list of sureties, their properties would also be removed from the bail offering.
The other sureties are Canadian citizens, and include a woman who brought a certified cheque from her retirement savings to the courthouse. Martin said the woman knows Meng well and has vacationed with her in-laws.
Another offering a financial guarantee is a realtor who has known Meng since 2009 and sold two properties to the couple. He's put up his home, which he understands he will lose if Meng violates her conditions.
A third is vouching for her character, saying he worked at Huawei in China in the mid-1990s and got to know Meng well during that time.
“People who have come forward with their money and their homes have confidence in Ms. Meng,” Martin told the court.
Martin said the total dollar amount pledged by the sureties is more than $3 million.
House arrest not necessary: defence
Following the announcement of the new plan from defence, the Crown reiterated it still opposed bail, but that if she is released, the prosecution wanted a solid plan put forward to mitigate risk.
Gibbs-Carsley had suggested house arrest, an option Martin said is not necessary, but that his client would not be adverse to it. Instead, the judge opted for a curfew at night and a security zone.
While awaiting an extradition trial, she'd like to attend a business school at the University of British Columbia to get her PhD, her lawyer said. He said his client would also use the time on bail to read and spend time with her family.
Character references read aloud in court described Meng as a "quiet and modest individual who considers her family and children a priority."
Local arrest, international implications
Meng's arrest at Vancouver International Airport earlier this month has already had international implications. On Tuesday, CTV News learned the federal government is considering increasing the risk level for Canadian travellers to China.
The news followed the announcement that a former Canadian diplomat had been detained for unspecified reasons in China. A Victoria woman who spent a decade working alongside Michael Kovrig said she was shocked by his arrest.
"He's an advocate for China," Katie McGowan told CTV Vancouver Island, adding that she suspects his arrest is retaliation for Meng's.
Over the weekend, China threatened Canada with "grave consequences" if Meng is not released, calling her detention "unreasonable, unconscionable and vile in nature."
The country has not expanded on what the repercussions could be. Following the threat, the Chinese leg of a provincial forestry trade trip through Asia was cancelled as a precaution.
And the U.S. president has also commented on the CFO's case. In an exclusive interview with news agency Reuters, Donald Trump said her release could be part of a broader trade deal with China.
With files from CTV National News' Melanie Nagy, CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson and The Canadian Press