US may be trying to trap Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou with deal, warns Canadian extradition expert

Ian Young
·6-min read

A deal reportedly offered by US authorities to Meng Wanzhou could be a trap, in which an admission of wrongdoing could be used against the Huawei Technologies Co. executive “again and again”, according to one of Canada’s leading extradition experts.

Vancouver barrister Gary Botting, who has written several books on extradition law, wrote in the National Post newspaper on Monday that “if Meng admits to wrongdoing, she would have a criminal record and any number of countries (including Canada) could use this against her”.

Botting was responding to a report in The Wall Street Journal last month that said the US was negotiating with Meng about a deferred prosecution agreement that would allow her to return home from Canada to China. Under such a deal, a suspect typically admits wrongdoing and may offer some other forms of cooperation, in exchange for charges being dropped in the future.

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But in his op-ed article, Botting said the US “could be setting a trap” for Meng, and that he spoke “from painful experience”. He went on to cite three cases in which he was previously involved that he said illustrated the potential peril for Meng if she took the deal.

Meng Wanzhou, centre, returns to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver on December 11, 2020. Photo: The Canadian Press via AP
Meng Wanzhou, centre, returns to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver on December 11, 2020. Photo: The Canadian Press via AP

“Ultimately, Meng’s name must be struck from the indictment,” he wrote. “Otherwise, even if Canada’s minister of justice orders her to be discharged, the United States can go after her again and again, whenever she happens to land in a country with which the Americans have an extradition treaty.”

Details of the purported deal have not been made public, but Botting wrote that a deal in one of the cases he cited was “very much like the one the US is now proposing in the Meng case”, while another was “not unlike” Meng’s.

Botting sat with Meng’s legal team during her initial bail hearings in December 2018, and told the South China Morning Post then that he was acting as an adviser to her lawyers. He said on Monday that he is no longer working for Meng, and that he had not seen details of the US deal.

Ultimately, Meng’s name must be struck from the indictment. Otherwise ... the United States can go after her again and again, whenever she happens to land in a country with which the Americans have an extradition treaty.

Extradition expert Gary Botting

Meng, the chief financial officer for Huawei Technologies and daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, has been fighting extradition to the US for more than two years and is living under partial house arrest in Vancouver. She was arrested by Canadian police acting on a US request at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018, upending China’s relations with Canada and the US.

US authorities want her to face trial in New York, accusing her of defrauding HSBC by misleading the bank about Huawei’s business dealing with Iran, thus putting HSBC at risk of breaching US sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

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In one of the cases he cited, Botting described how a Vancouver-based CFO wanted by the US for an alleged telemarketing scam “negotiated a deal not unlike that proposed for Meng: one day in prison (the day she appeared in court)”.

She pleaded guilty and was allowed to fly back to Vancouver to be with her children the same day. But the confession was used against her husband – the CEO of the company – and he was jailed for fraud. He remains in prison to this day, 20 years after the alleged offence. “So much for justice,” wrote Botting.

Another client was accused of bribing officials in eastern Europe and China, at both ends of a pipeline his company constructed. Like Meng, the European construction CEO was arrested at Vancouver’s airport on a US warrant.

“While he was held in custody in Canada, his US lawyers negotiated a deal very much like the one the US is now proposing in the Meng case, contingent on his acceding to US jurisdiction,” Botting wrote.

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He too was offered a deal involving one day in jail, but when he missed a court date he was sentenced to a year.

“[My] client’s corporation, like Huawei, was not registered in the United States,” wrote Botting. “My client had not set foot there before travelling to Washington to try to clear his name. Arguably, the US had no jurisdiction over him or his company. The same case can be made about Meng.”

In a third case, Botting described how the American CFO for a US company was persuaded to plead guilty in a case about the reckless abandonment of a building in St Louis, in exchange for “time served”.

Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver on November 16, 2020. Photo: Reuters
Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver on November 16, 2020. Photo: Reuters

But her Canadian husband, who ran the company, was extradited and received a much more severe sentence, Botting said.

In sum, Botting wrote: “It is increasingly obvious that the issuance of the indictment against Huawei was a political move designed to usurp its success in the 5G market and give US corporations dominance in that burgeoning field. The United States clearly miscalculated what a mess it would create by adding Meng to the indictment.”

That echoes what Botting told the South China Morning Post on December 11, 2018, the day that Meng was granted bail.

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“There are other ways of dealing with thing like this … rather than the arbitrariness of a megalithic state, the United States, using its power to grab a Chinese citizen,” he said at the time.

“It looks like sour grapes” on the part of the US regarding the successes of Huawei, Botting said in the car park of British Columbia’s Supreme Court building in Vancouver.

He said Meng “should never have been arrested in the first place”.

“You can imagine the jeopardy that people are going to encounter anywhere they go, as long as the United States wants to enforce the law internationally,” he said.

“This is the United States trying to flex its muscles and take attention away from other things” said Botting. “Clean up your own house before using Canada to mop up the rest of the world’s problems.”

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