U.S. Justice Department in talks with Meng Wanzhou over deal to free the Huawei executive: report
Wall Street Journal report claims Meng could be set free in exchange of admitting guilt
The U.S. Justice Department is talking to representatives of Meng Wanzhou about a potential deal that would allow the Chinese telecom executive to return home from Canada in exchange for signing a deferred prosecution agreement admitting criminal wrongdoing, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., was detained in December 2018 while she was changing planes in Vancouver. She was arrested on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary that's accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
She has consistently denied the charges against her.
Shortly after that arrest, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China, where they remain in detention and face charges of spying for Canada.
The report also says the proposed deal could pave the way for China to return Kovrig and Spavor, which is a factor that is in part motivating the discussions, according to the paper's sources.
China has since placed a number of trade hurdles in front of Canadian exporters — banning imports from two canola producers, tying up shipments over paperwork and putting unusual obstacles in the way of Canadian soybean and pea exporters.
In a report in the Wall Street Journal — which CBC had not independently verified — sources say the agreement with Meng would require her to admit to criminal wrongdoing.
The newspaper reports that if she does that, U.S. prosecutors would defer the charges against her, and could even drop them at a later date.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to comment on the reports today, saying that the government continues to work for the release of the two Canadian men.
"For almost two years, we've been working extremely hard to bring home these two Michaels. It is an absolute priority for the government," he said. "I won't be commenting on any of the recent reports."
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti told CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Thursday that he is aware of the report but could not comment.
WATCH | A 'great way to end this nightmare,' former ambassador says:
Canada's former ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, said the stand-off between China and Canada appears to be getting closer to a resolution.
"Assuming that Ms. Meng can get to an agreement with the [U.S. Department of Justice] we will still have to find a way to get the two Michaels out, because I am sure that China may want to extract something in exchange," Saint-Jacques told host Catherine Cullen.
Saint-Jacques said he was sure that Ottawa has been keeping pressure on Washington to help Canada out of what he called a "nightmare."
Meng's legal team would not comment on the story.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a regular briefing on Friday that Meng was innocent and that the U.S. had "choreographed" the case to contain Chinese high-tech companies, without commenting directly on the story.
"We urge the U.S. to drop this extradition warrant and arrest order on Ms. Meng and we urge the Canadian side to release her and allow her to return to China at an early date," she said.
WATCH | Justice minister says he can't comment on report:
With files from the CBC's Jason Proctor and Reuters