Huawei Wanzhou
© Ian Young
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou leaves her home in Vancouver on Friday morning.
Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou reached a deal with US prosecutors on Friday that will allow her to return to China, effectively resolving the case that has kept Meng in legal limbo in Vancouver for nearly three years.

The deal, in the form of a deferred prosecution agreement that will be in effect until December 2022, releases Meng on the condition that she abides by a "statement of facts" about the case, providing a reprieve to a legal dispute that helped to throw Beijing's relations with Canada and the United States into crisis.

"We fully expect the indictment to be dismissed with prejudice," Meng's lawyer Michelle Levin of Steptoe & Johnson told reporters after the hearing at a US federal courthouse in New York. "Ms Meng is free to go home to her family."

Meng, who was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 on a US warrant, was indicted on bank and wire fraud charges for allegedly misleading HSBC about

Huawei's business dealings in Iran. On Friday, she pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Canada's Globe and Mail reported that the plea agreement does not include any deal that would release Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were arrested in China shortly after Meng's detention on charges of espionage.

Huawei's Meng Wanzhou attends final Canadian extradition hearing, but verdict still months away

The agreement will require Meng to admit to wrongdoing in exchange for prosecutors deferring and later dropping charges, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the agreement. She will also will pay a fine as part of the deal, according to CBC News.

Meng, 49, left her Vancouver home with Huawei lawyers and executives about 45 minutes before the US hearing was scheduled to begin. She did not respond when asked if she was heading back to China soon, other than to smile broadly and say "good morning".

A spokeswoman for Huawei declined to comment on the legal agreement.

The US accusations that Meng had defrauded HSBC existed in an "evidentiary vacuum", her Canadian lawyer Scott Fenton said as hearings in the extradition case neared their end last month, dismissing arguments that she had put the bank's reputation or loans to Huawei at risk.

The alleged deceit is said to have been carried out in a 2013 PowerPoint presentation she made to an HSBC executive in a Hong Kong teahouse that was intended to reassure the bank.

One legal expert said much hinged on how strong the US Justice Department's evidence was against Meng, details that have not been made public.

"It all comes down to whether they had the goods on her, we just don't know," said Tom Kellogg, executive director of the Centre for Asian Law at Georgetown University Law School. "If they did, then great. If not, then it was part of [Donald] Trump's broader trade war. I hope that wasn't the case."

Kellogg added that some may see in Meng's release a victory for China's hard-nosed "hostage diplomacy" strategy. Shortly after Meng was arrested, Beijing detained Kovrig, a consultant, and Spavor, an analyst and former Canadian diplomat, and also changed the 15-year jail sentence imposed on Canadian drug smuggler Robert Lloyd Schellenberg to a death sentence.

China has repeatedly denied that Kovrig and Spavor were detained arbitrarily.


Comment: It would appear that they weren't detained arbitrarily, they were accused of much more serious crimes than Meng, however, had the US, through Canada, not started the hostage diplomacy spat, then it may be that China would have tolerated them.


A report in the English-language Global Times newspaper earlier this month, where the first details of the allegations against the men emerged, said that Spavor took photos and videos of secret military equipment and sent them to Kovrig. The Global Times is a Chinese government mouthpiece that is published by People's Daily.

The Canadian government responded to the report by saying that China had denied Canadian officials access to the men's trial and any evidence against them.


Comment: China claimed access to the trial would endanger national security, and it may be that Spavor had obtained information that China doesn't want to be made public. Moreover, the US hasn't released the evidence they claim to have against against Mrs Wanzhou, so, fair is fair.


Speaking of Meng's deal on Friday, Brett Bruen, president of the crisis management firm Global Situation Room, said: "This was always going to be a tricky case for the United States and, quite frankly, was a very aggressive move by the Trump administration in pursuing such a high-level person that not only exposed Canadian executives but put our own people at great risk. And the benefit to our national security interests were marginal at best."

"I think this is a smart move to try and put this issue behind us and try to go to other US-China policy issues," added Bruen, the White House head of global engagement under president Barack Obama. "This allows China to make other compromises while telling its folks at home that it got something."

Meng has been detained in Vancouver and monitored by private security that she pays for as part of her bail agreement.

Meng, the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, is accused of defrauding HSBC by lying to it about Huawei's business with an affiliate in Iran called Skycom, thus putting the bank at risk of breaching American sanctions on Tehran.