What just happened? Canada’s Department of Justice has agreed to move forward with the extradition process against Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou. The United States means to charge her with violating trade sanctions against Iran and stealing intellectual property. Following a review by Canadian courts later this month, she could be handed over to the US and await trial as Huawei and the Chinese government seethe.
In early December we reported that Meng had been arrested while traveling in Canada at America’s request. She was charged with selling HP equipment to Iran on behalf of Hong Kong company Skycom from 2009 to 2014 when such trade was strictly prohibited by US sanctions. Since then, she’s also been accused of copying T-Mobile’s phone testing technology for Huawei. She was granted bail but has remained in Canada for the last three months, despite an official request by the Chinese embassy to free her.
Following the decision to proceed with the extradition process, Meng’s lawyers told The Verge that Meng “maintains that she is innocent of any wrongdoing,” and that “the US prosecution and extradition constitutes an abuse of the process of law.”
The Department of Justice predicted such arguments in their announcement of the transfer, which emphasized that “Canada is a country governed by the rule of law,” which relied on “constitutional principles of fairness and due process” to make this decision. Even without directly stating it, the Department made it clear that they were focusing on the evidence, rather than buckling under pressure from the US.
The Department of Justice evaluates situations like this very carefully, requiring there to be a good chance that a court would find the defendant guilty in both Canada and America and that the sentences in both countries would exceed at least one-year imprisonment. Thus, it’s likely that Meng’s seemingly inevitable trial in the US will result in a guilty sentence, further ruining Huawei’s relationship with the Western world.
On March 6 the British Columbia Supreme Court will set a hearing date to give Meng one last chance to escape America’s clutches. The Department of Justice will act as the prosecution. Intriguingly, during the court case, all the charges and the evidence supporting them will become available to the public. Perhaps some light will finally be shed on why America has been targeting Huawei so relentlessly when there’s been no public evidence of spying.
Correction: A previous revision of this article suggested Meng Wanzhou was being handed over to the US government, which is not correct. Canada has agreed to move forward, formally commencing an extradition process, but the final decision has yet to be made by the Canadian's court.