Chinese exec lied to evade sanctions on Iran, U.S. charges
Nearly a week after her arrest at a Canadian airport, the U.S. charges against Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou finally took shape Friday as a prosecutor outlined alleged efforts to conceal the ownership of a company suspected of trying to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The fraud case disclosed in a court in Vancouver, British Columbia, has relatively narrow lines. At its heart are U.S. claims that the heir apparent to Huawei Technologies — one of China’s biggest tech empires —— misled banks about Huawei’s suspected financial links to a Hong Kongbased company called Skycom. Ms. Meng could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
But the fallout from Ms. Meng’s arrest and possible extradition spills far beyond the charges at hand.
The case has increased uncertainty in global financial markets, bringing another day of sharp losses from Asia to Wall Street before a weekend breather. There also are worries about possible Chinese retaliation for targeting Ms. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder and a rising star among China’s business elite.
For the moment, China insists the prosecution will not derail efforts to end the tariffslinging trade battles with the Trump administration.
Yet there is much to still play out.
Ms. Meng, wearing a green sweater, listened in court as Crown Prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley argued that she poses a flight risk and should be denied bail as the extradition process begins. That will give her attorneys another chance to fight her transfer to the United States.
Ms. Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport as she traveled from Hong Kong to Mexico on Dec. 1, the same day that President Donald Trump met Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.
There had been speculation that the charges were, in some way, linked to alleged violations of sanctions on Iran. Then, in a packed Vancouver courtroom, a prosecutor for Canada’s Justice Department offered up the first details of the U.S. charges.
Ms. Meng is accused of committing fraud in 2013 by telling U.S. financial institutions that Huawei had no connection to Skycom, which was reportedly selling goods manufactured in the United States to Iran in violation of American sanctions on Tehran. Ms. Meng has contended Huawei sold Skycom in 2009.
The United States claims Huawei uses Skycom to do business in Iran to work around U.S. sanctions.
“Ms. Meng personally represented to those banks that Skycom and Huawei were separate, when in fact they were not separate,” Mr. Gibb-Carsley told the court. “Skycom was Huawei.”