Trudeau says he had advance notice of Huawei executive's arrest

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa had a few days' prior notice of the arrest of an executive from the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei following U.S. allegations the company violated sanctions on Iran.

PM says Ottawa was notified a few days before arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media at a press conference Thursday in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Ottawa had a few days' prior notice of the arrest of an executive from the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei following U.S. allegations the company violated sanctions on Iran.

Authorities conducted the arrest without political interference, Trudeau said Thursday in his first comments on the arrest of Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, which has further inflamed tensions between the U.S. and China.

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Saturday and is being sought for extradition by the U.S. A bail hearing has been set for Friday.

"The appropriate authorities took the decisions in this case without any political involvement or interference ... we were advised by them with a few days' notice that this was in the works," Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.

Asked whether he had spoken to the Chinese premier or the ambassador, Trudeau said he has had no conversations with international counterparts about the case. He declined to give further details, citing Meng's bail hearing on Friday.

China has condemned the arrest. Neither the U.S. nor Canada has provided an explanation for Meng's arrest, a spokesperson for China's ministry of foreign affairs said Thursday.

Watch Trudeau discuss the Huawei arrest:

The Prime Minister was asked about the arrest in Montreal on Thursday 1:29

U.S. authorities have been probing Huawei, one of the world's largest makers of telecommunications network equipment, since at least 2016 over allegations that it shipped U.S.-derived tech products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws, sources told Reuters in April.

U.S. national security adviser John Bolton told U.S. media that he knew of the pending arrest in advance. The White House said on Thursday that U.S. President Donald Trump did not know about the extradition request before his dinner with Chinese President Xi Jingping in Argentina at the recent G20 summit.

Huawei released a statement saying its CFO was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver and is facing charges in "the Eastern District of New York."

Spying concerns

Huawei, one of the world's biggest suppliers of network gear used by phone and internet companies, has been the subject of deepening security concerns within the U.S. government and the governments of countries like Australia and New Zealand.

Under Trump and his predecessor, Barack Obama, Washington has pressured European countries and other allies to limit use of Huawei's technology.

The U.S. sees Huawei and smaller Chinese tech suppliers as possible fronts for espionage, and as commercial competition. 

Watch Canada's former ambassador to China discuss potential fallout from the arrest:

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques discusses the potential consequences of the arrest of Huawei's CFO. 6:25

Last month, New Zealand blocked a mobile phone company from using Huawei equipment, saying it posed a "significant network security risk." The company was banned in August from working on Australia's high-speed 5G network.

On Wednesday, British phone carrier BT said it was removing Huawei equipment from the core of its mobile phone networks. It said Huawei still is a supplier of other equipment and a "valued innovation partner."

Huawei has significant operations in Canada, employing more than 500 people and receiving tax credits for its research and development work, Bloomberg reports.

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press