Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou allegedly admits to selling US tech to Iran

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou
Photo courtesy of Huawei Technologies

On Wednesday, a new Bloomberg report offered new details about the arrest and detention of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. According to newly released court documents, a Canadian border agent questioned Meng about her firm’s dealings in Iran. After initial denial, the executive allegedly admitted that her company maintains an office in the controversial Middle Eastern country.

Canadian authorities took Meng into custody last December on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The agency asked that the telecommunications executive be detained for extradition to the U.S. to face charges of stealing trade secrets and violating international trade sanctions.

In addition to being Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng is also the daughter of the conglomerate’s founder, Ren Zhengfei.

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New Details

In August, the U.S. government filed charges against Huawei for breaking U.S. law by selling American technology to Iran. Federal authorities allege the firm used a subsidiary called Skycom to facilitate more than $100 million in illicit transactions from 2010 to 2014.

Prosecutors have also charged Meng with committing bank and wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. U.S. authorities claim she violated those laws when lying to HSBC about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom.

To date, Huawei and Meng have denied all of the U.S.’s allegations.

However, an affidavit from a Canadian border agent casts doubt on the Chinese conglomerate’s story. The unnamed officer asked Meng if her firm had done business in countries it shouldn’t, such as Iran. At first, the executive denied knowing if her corporation sold goods to sanctioned nations but later confessed that her company has an Iranian office.

Meng faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for each of the charges the U.S. government filed against her.

Defense Files for Release

Ironically, Meng’s alleged admission of guilt became public due to a filing by her defense attorneys. On Tuesday, the executive’s lawyers filed a motion asking the courts to delay her extradition to the United States. Her representatives claim American and Canadian authorities coordinated to affect her unlawful arrest and, as such, the U.S.’s extradition request should be denied.

Meng’s attorneys argue Canadian authorities initially detained the executive under the pretense of the standard immigration check. Subsequently, border patrol agents allegedly searched her belongings and interrogated her for three hours before informing her that she was under arrest. Meng’s lawyers also claim Canadian agents seized her electronic devices and their passwords on orders from the FBI.

Canada’s Crown Attorney Office has until September 17 to respond to Meng’s representative’s requests. Meng’s next extradition hearing is scheduled for September 23.

Political Pressure

Beijing has put pressure on Canada to release the deputy chairwoman of China’s largest private company since late last year.

Since Meng’s detainment, the Chinese government has halted imports of Canadian meat and canola oil. In 2018, China purchased $2.7 billion worth of Canadian canola oil. Furthermore, the Canada China Business Council reported 20 percent of Canadian businesses have suffered due to worsening relations between the two nations.

The Asian superpower has also detained two Canadian nationals and charged them with spying. In December, Chinese authorities arrested former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor. Beijing subsequently charged the pair with attempting to steal state secrets.

On Thursday, the Great White North’s Chinese embassy released a statement implying relations between the two countries has soured because of Meng’s arrest. The consulate also asked the executive be safely repatriated to her home country. Nevertheless, the embassy’s statement is unlikely to sway the Canadian government.

On Wednesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his nation would not back down on the matter and would continue to defend its interests. The following day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Trudeau that Washington is working to affect Kovrig and Spavor’s freedom.