Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou to resolve fraud case in plea deal that does not include release of Kovrig and Spavor, source says
ROBERT FIFE, STEVEN CHASE
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
September 24 at 10:02 a.m. ET
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is expected to appear virtually in federal court in New York City Friday to resolve U.S. bank fraud charges against her, according to a source.
The source said the plea agreement does not include Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who have been imprisoned in China on charges of espionage since December 2018. It remains unclear if there is a side agreement with China that would free the two men who were arrested after Ms. Meng was detained at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. extradition request.
Reuters first reported the Ms. Meng has accepted a plea deal that would end her extradition hearings in Canada and allow her to return to China.
The Globe and Mail reported on Saturday that the United States has resumed discussions with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and lawyers for Meng Wanzhou about a possible deferred prosecution agreement for the Chinese executive that could allow her to return to China.
The development could open the door for China to free Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. Canada has accused Beijing of holding them hostage in retaliation for the arrest of Ms. Meng, who is detained in Vancouver and fighting extradition to the United States.
Canadian government officials in Ottawa refused to discuss the legal development that is being handled by the U.S. Justice department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York.
The U.S. Justice department could not be reached for comment. Reid Weingarten, the lead U.S. lawyer for Ms. Meng, could also not immediately be reached for comment.
The Globe reported the U.S. Department of Justice has been in talks for weeks with Huawei and lawyers for Ms. Meng, daughter of Ren Zhengfei, founder of the Chinese telecommunications giant.
Ms. Meng was detained at Vancouver International Airport in December, 2018, on a U.S. Justice Department extradition request for alleged bank fraud related to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The U.S. is prepared to end the extradition request and criminal proceedings against Ms. Meng if she pleads guilty and pays a hefty fine, the sources said. Huawei accepting corporate responsibility for violating sanctions is not part of the discussions, the sources said.
The Globe is not identifying the sources because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the sensitive and confidential negotiations.
In late 2020, the U.S. Justice Department also held discussions with Huawei on a plea agreement.
The Department of Justice has the power to withdraw the extradition request and the arrest warrant for Ms. Meng.
Sources said the talks hinge on Ms. Meng’s willingness to accept a plea deal, which she rejected in December, 2020, when the U.S. Justice Department first held discussions about a deferred prosecution agreement.
The Globe reported that the current negotiations do not involve a quid pro quo for the release of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig, who were arrested in China on espionage charges shortly after Ms. Meng was detained. They have been held in Chinese prisons while Ms. Meng is out on bail and living in a $13.7-million Vancouver home while she contests her extradition.
Any discussions about the release of the two Michaels would involve the Chinese government, which has demanded that Ms. Meng be allowed to return home, the sources said. Even if Ms. Meng were allowed to leave Canada as part of a U.S. settlement, the sources said it is unlikely the two Michaels would be immediately freed.
In June, The Globe reported that Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, spent three weeks in Washington in early April holding talks with senior officials in the Biden administration aimed at facilitating the release of two Canadians.
Mr. Barton met with officials from the White House National Security Council and the departments of Justice, State, Defense, Treasury and Commerce. He also held talks with Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States.
China put Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor on trial in March. They were charged with spying as part of a process that Canada and dozens of allies call arbitrary detention on bogus charges in a closed system of justice with no accountability. A Chinese court in August found Mr. Spavor guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 11 years in prison. He has appealed the ruling. The verdict for Mr. Kovrig has yet to be announced.
The two men are not allowed visits from family or lawyers. Canadian diplomats see them about once a month in a video link.
Huawei, which is based in Shenzhen, China, has made freeing Ms. Meng one of its priorities.
Good that the US made this right, no Michaels, no Meng. Trudeau also looks good here - was the strong Ally, never waivered in public, and got the job done. Let's see if the conservatives give him his due. This is all big news.
More likely, this has something to do with last week's UK warning notice to international travelers to avoid countries that have extradition treaties with China because of the possibility of rendition. That was the shot across the bow.