A judge in British Columbia has granted bail to Huawei’s chief financial officer, bringing to a close a three-day legal drama that pitted lawyers for the Chinese tech heiress against lawyers acting for the United States, which sought her arrest.
B.C. Supreme Court Judge William Ehrcke released Meng Wanzhou with a long list of conditions, that include restrictions on where she’s allowed to go, frequent check-ins, a tracking device, a 5pm curfew and no access to any of her passports. She was released on a total of $10-million CAD bail — $7-million of which is pledged by Meng and $3-million from friends and neighbours.
The Vancouver courtroom where the proceedings took place has been packed every day during the proceedings described by some on social media as a “soap opera.”
Meng, pictured below, was taken into custody by Canadian authorities on December 1 during a stopover in Vancouver, en route to Mexico. She faces fraud charges and is being held on a provisional warrant. The U.S. has 60 days to make an extradition request. Even if that is granted, she will have several opportunities to appeal the decision which means she’ll be serving most of her time in her Vancouver mansion, under house arrest, for the long haul.
Meng’s release came on the same day Canada received confirmation that one of its citizens, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, has been detained in China. CTV reports that Ottawa is also considering issuing a travel warning for Canadians who are currently in China or travelling there, among other options. All of this is against the bigger backdrop of an intensifying trade war between the U.S. and China. Trade negotiations between the two countries are ongoing, while talks between Canada and China have been put on hold since Meng’s arrest.
On Tuesday, Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, said any suggestion there is a political motive behind the pursuit of Meng is “absolutely false.”
"It is a very delicate process, and I don't want to be involved in something that is an ongoing, independent judiciary process. Our law enforcement work very closely together," Craft told a small group of journalists at her home in Ottawa on Tuesday, according to CTV News.
The question at the centre of the bail proceedings in Vancouver, is what can be done to mitigate the flight risk posed by the billionaire heiress of China’s most important tech company? The answer is $10 million posted for bail, round-the-clock high-tech security by a Canadian firm (paid for by Meng) and four new candidates to act as guarantors or “community jailers.”
Wanzhou’s husband Liu Xiaozong was initially offered up as a guarantor, which B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke didn’t accept. Liu isn’t a Canadian citizen and his visitor visa expires in February. Meng, who also goes by the names Sabrina and Cathy, faces many months, if not years, of house arrest. Today, her lawyers offered up four more people who put up millions in assets on her behalf, including their homes, money earmarked for retirement and other savings. They are Meng’s realtor, Meng’s insurance agent who is also a former Huawei employee, a homemaker who is married to a former Huawei employee and a part-time yoga instructor who lives near one of Meng’s Vancouver properties. Her lawyers said they were up all night finding the right people to act as sureties.
The United State’s interests were represented in the Vancouver courtroom by a federal prosecutor acting for the Attorney General of Canada. The lawyer argued that Meng is a considerable flight risk, given her vast wealth and connections. They also say that even though she owns two mansions in Vancouver, together valued at more than $20 million, her connections to Canada aren’t significant enough to prevent her from trying to flee. The 46-year-old mother of four became a permanent resident in 2001, which expired in 2009. She typically spends a couple of weeks a year in the Vancouver area.
According to sworn affidavits, Meng is a thyroid cancer survivor who still has health issues, including severe hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) which she has “struggled with for years.” She was taken to Richmond General Hospital for treatment right after her arrest.
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Cover image: Supporters hold signs and a Chinese flag outside B.C. Supreme Court during the third day of a bail hearing for Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, in Vancouver, on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck