The senior Huawei executive whose arrest ignited a diplomatic firestorm with China has been released on $10-million bail, ending a 10-day stint in prison with a court order to stay in the Vancouver area under around-the-clock surveillance.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke ordered Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the telecommunications giant, on Tuesday to wear a GPS ankle-bracelet aimed at keeping her in or near Vancouver and away from its airport. She will be under 24/7 surveillance by a security company as she awaits a formal extradition request from the United States.
It is unclear how long she will be staying at her home on Vancouver’s west side, but the United States has until the start of February to file for extradition on several charges of fraud, which she allegedly committed when she lied to several banks about her company’s activities in Iran and put those institutions at risk of violating U.S. trade sanctions.
The same day Ms. Meng was granted freedom from a Vancouver-area prison, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would intervene in the Justice Department’s case against her if it would serve national security interests or help close a trade deal with China.
Speaking in Vancouver, China’s consul general Tong Xiaoling said her government welcomed the decision to grant bail to Ms. Meng as a good first step. “But our position is very clear that she is innocent and we request her immediate release.”
In Tuesday’s bail decision, Justice Ehrcke said the surveillance plan sufficiently reduced Ms. Meng’s risk of fleeing to China, which has no extradition treaty with Canada or the United States. The Crown had argued that Ms. Meng was an extreme flight risk because of her access to vast resources and global connections.
“I am satisfied that on the particular facts of this case, including the fact that Ms. Meng is a well-educated businesswoman who has no criminal record and of whom several people have attested to her good character, the risk of her non-attendance in court can be reduced to an acceptable level,” Justice Ehrcke said.
He also disagreed with a number of assertions made by the United States in the provisional arrest warrant used to capture Ms. Meng, including the “entirely speculative” allegation she had avoided travelling stateside since a grand jury there issued a subpoena to Huawei’s subsidiaries in the spring of 2017.
“Residents of countries other than the United States − including Ms. Meng − may have myriad good reasons in choosing not to travel to the United States during the past two years,” he said.
After he read aloud his decision, dozens of Ms. Meng’s supporters in the gallery erupted in a short burst of clapping. Soon after, Ms. Meng hugged and chatted with her team of several lawyers as she wiped away tears.
Ms. Meng, 46, is looking forward to spending some quiet time with her family, saying she hadn’t “read a novel in years,” her lead lawyer David Martin told the court earlier in the day.
“She told me two things: that I have been working hard for 25 years and if I were to be ordered released my only simple goal is to be with my husband and my daughter,” Mr. Martin told the judge.
Ms. Meng’s husband, Liu Xiaozong, a venture capitalist who flew in from Shenzhen after her arrest, declined to talk to The Globe and Mail, but said he was “very happy” as he left the courtroom and wrapped his arm around a friend’s back.
Near the court registry, Vancouver resident Margaret Jing waited to greet Ms. Meng, whom she said was an old friend. She said she went to Ms. Meng’s house on Monday evening to offer to act as one of her sureties or “community jailers” in charge of making sure she abides by the conditions of her release, but Ms. Jing was told the family already had enough people come forward.
“Of course, I am very happy and excited. The whole issue is also related to a country’s reputation and interest,” she said.
Huawei, founded by Ms. Meng’s father, who the court heard is worth $3.2-billion, released a statement denying the company had violated any U.S. laws and noted that it has “every confidence that the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will reach a just conclusion in the following proceedings.”
Ms. Meng’s detention on Dec. 1 sent shock waves throughout China and prompted Beijing to threaten “serious consequences” if Ottawa did not immediately release her. On Tuesday, the federal government confirmed that Chinese authorities had detained Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave who is now working for a non-profit organization in that country.
The U.S. government is alleging Ms. Meng committed fraud in 2013 when she misled U.S. financial institutions about her company’s links to a Hong Kong subsidiary called Skycom, which was doing business in Iran.
None of the allegations against Ms. Meng have been proven in court. Her next court appearance is on Feb. 6, 2019. She must abide a list of 16 conditions, including obeying an 11 p.m. curfew and paying the costs of the added surveillance.
The decision came after what Ms. Meng’s lawyer said was an all-night effort to find a group of local people willing to offer collateral as part of bail conditions aimed at further guaranteeing that she would not return to China. These people all had personal ties to Ms. Meng or Huawei and volunteered after doubts were cast the day before on her husband’s ability to fulfill the role of a court-appointed supervisor while on a visitor’s visa.
The group who volunteered included the realtor who sold the couple their two Vancouver luxury homes and now manages these properties, the wife of a former Huawei employee, an insurance agent who worked for the telecom company in the 1990s and travelled to Moscow on business with Ms. Meng and a part-time yoga instructor who lives near one of Ms. Meng’s homes and who first met Ms. Meng 23 years ago in Shenzhen.
“The people who have come forward with their homes and their money have confidence in Ms. Meng,” her lead counsel Mr. Martin told the court.
With a report from Reuters