British Columbia·In Depth

Everything you need to know about Huawei, Meng Wanzhou and her possible extradition

A global firestorm was set off with the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou. As she awaits extradition hearings on $10 million bail, CBC answers some frequently asked questions about the case.

International media have followed Meng's case, attracted by the mix of money, power and political intrigue

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home with a security guard in Vancouver the day after she was released on $10 million bail. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ignited a firestorm of interest that saw media from around the world descend on Vancouver.

The case has it all: money, power and international intrigue.

As Meng awaits an extradition hearing to determine if she should be sent to the United States to face charges of fraud and violating international sanctions against Iran, here's a look at what we know about her situation.

Who is Meng Wangzhou?

The 46-year-old is also known as Cathy or Sabrina Meng. She lives in Shenzhen, China. She is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, who founded Huawei technologies in 1987.

According to U.S. prosecutors, Meng's father is the world's 83rd richest person. His net worth is $3.2 billion US.

Meng Wanzhou obtained this British Columbia identification card in 2001. She was once a permanent resident and owns two homes in Vancouver. (B.C. Supreme Court)

Meng has a master's degree and has worked for the company since 1993, in positions including director of international accounting, CFO of Huawei Hong Kong and president of the accounting management department.

She is currently the CFO of Huawei and deputy chairwoman of the board.

Meng has four children ranging from 10 to 20 years old. Her three sons are from previous marriages and she has a daughter with her current husband, Liu Xiaozong, who is also known as Carlos.

In her B.C. Supreme Court affidavits, Meng said she has suffered from health problems throughout her life. She had surgery for thyroid cancer in 2011 and has difficulty eating solid foods.

And why is Huawei such a big deal?

Crown lawyers describe Huawei as the world's largest telecommunications company. The firm employs 180,000 people in more than 170 countries and regions worldwide, including more than 700 people in Canada.

According to its 2017 annual report, Huawei generated over $90 billion US in revenue last year and $7 billion US in net profits. The company is currently poised to take advantage of the global roll out of 5G — or fifth generation —cellular wireless technology.

Meng Wanzhou's father is Ren Zhengfei, founder of Huawei Technologies. Seen here in 2012, he is the world's 83rd richest person. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press)

But security experts have warned Canada about doing business with Huawei, raising concerns about the close relationship between the company and the Chinese government.

Cybersecurity experts say Meng's father is a former military engineer for China's People's Liberation Army.

Regardless, Meng's lawyer told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that the global impact of his client's detention could not be overstated.

He said Chinese citizens would view the situation the way the U.S. public might react to seeing the arrest of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

So what is Meng Wanzhou accused of doing?

The fraud allegations against Meng centre around the relationship between Huawei and a company called Skycom, that did business in Iran. According to U.S. prosecutors, Skycom was a "hidden" subsidiary of Huawei.

Iran is subject to U.S. sanctions and banks can be found criminally liable if they help move money out of a sanctioned country and into the broader global banking system.

Reuters did a series of stories exposing the relationship between Huawei and Skycom.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been in office since 2013. The United States has accused Huawei and Meng Wanzhou of violating U.S.sanctions against the country. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

U.S.prosecutors said Meng — who once served on Skycom's board of directors — denied those allegations during a PowerPoint presentation to bankers in New York in 2013.

They accuse her of making "misrepresentations" — including the assertion "Huawei has sold all its shares in Skycom, and I (Meng) also quit my position on the Skycom board."

"That statement was highly misleading because Huawei sold its shares in Skycom to a company also controlled by Huawei," U.S.authorities said. 

U.S. prosecutors claim Meng ultimately deceived financial institutions into dealing in dirty money.

Why was she arrested in Vancouver?

According to her lawyer, Meng was on a business trip, passing through Vancouver International Airport on her way to Mexico City, Costa Rica, Argentina and France.

The U.S. claims she has avoided travel to the United States since April 2017, when she allegedly became aware of the criminal investigation.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou poses with her children with the Lions Gate bridge. She claims to have meaningful connections to Vancouver. (B.C. Supreme Court)

A judge in the Eastern District of New York issued a warrant for Meng's arrest in August. She was detained at YVR on a provisional arrest warrant, under the terms of an extradition treaty between Canada and the United States.

The U.S. has 60 days — from the date of her arrest — to file an official request for extradition along with the supporting documents.

What is Meng's connection to Canada?

Meng and her husband own two homes in Vancouver, worth a combined $22 million. She was also once a permanent resident.

Her children used to live in Vancouver during the school year, and the family still visits for several weeks every summer. Her in-laws typically stay in one of their Vancouver homes for multiple months each summer.

So why did she have trouble getting bail?

Prosecutors claim Meng is a flight risk.

They also claimed that her unique wealth and position as a leader in a global telecommunications firm would give her the ability to evade electronic monitoring and flee the country if she wanted.

Her husband promised to put up $15 million and act as a surety. But prosecutors argued that since he is not a permanent resident of Canada, he has no incentive to stay if Meng wanted to flee.

Meng Wanzhou's husband Liu Xiaozong offered to act as a surety, but was rejected because he is only a temporary resident. He's a venture capitalist. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

As a result, Meng's lawyers came up with a plan to get guarantees from five friends with permanent ties to Canada.

They include the realtor who helped Meng and her husband buy their homes, an insurance agent who used to work at Huawei, a part-time yoga instructor who lives next door to one of her houses, and a homemaker whose husband used to work with Meng.

The founder of the risk management company that has pledged to guard Meng around the clock has also posted $1,000 bail. And Meng herself posted $7 million.

Guarded 24/7? That sounds expensive.

Meng has to pick up the tab.

So what's next?

Meng's next court appearance is Feb. 6.

The United States will have to provide a record of the case explaining the alleged offence and describing the type of evidence that might be presented at trial.

The case will then move to a committal hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.

A judge will decide whether the evidence presented by the United States would be enough to hold a trial if Meng were charged with similar offences in Canada and if a jury would convict if they believed the evidence presented.

Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould may have to make the decision to surrender Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the United States. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

If the judge decides to commit Meng for extradition, the Minister of Justice will then have to decide whether or not to order her surrendered. Meng will have the opportunity to make submissions at this point.

If Meng were facing capital punishment, the minister of justice might seek an assurance she wouldn't get the death penalty. But violating sanctions isn't a capital crime.

Finally, Meng can appeal her case to both the B.C. Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada.

All of which means she may be sporting an electronic ankle monitoring bracelet for a long time.

What are the chances Meng will be extradited?

According to information obtained by CBC News in May, 90 per cent of people arrested for extradition in Canada during the past decade were surrendered to requesting countries.

Legal experts said those are very high numbers.

Meng Wanzhou leaves B.C. Supreme Court after being granted bail. The extradition process is just beginning. (Alex Migdal/CBC)

They called for a public inquiry into the inner workings of the extradition system in light of a case which saw University of Ottawa sociology professor Hassan Diab sent to France in a case that was then dropped due to lack of evidence.

The French government is appealing his release.

On the other hand, political observers have suggested Meng's fate may ultimately be sealed through negotiations between the leaders of China and the United States.

China has demanded Meng's release and U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested he might intervene if doing so would bolster U.S. economic interests.

So what now?

Meng will work from Vancouver and live under guard on electronic monitoring. Her husband, a venture capitalist, will also work from Vancouver, and their daughter will join them.

She told her lawyer she may apply to do her PhD at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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