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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s husband offers $11 million bail

Justice William Ehrcke voiced doubts that Meng’s husband, Liu Xiaozong, could act as her surety

A courtroom sketch of Meng Wanzhou speaking to her lawyer David Martin during a bail hearing. AP
A courtroom sketch of Meng Wanzhou speaking to her lawyer David Martin during a bail hearing. AP

A Canadian judge signalled opposition to granting a bail request by jailed Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in court proceedings on Monday.

Justice William Ehrcke of the British Columbia Supreme Court voiced doubts that Meng’s husband, Liu Xiaozong, could act as her surety if she were released on bail. The judge also said it’s impossible to guarantee that there would be no flight risk should the court grant her request.

Crown attorney John Gibb-Carsley said the prosecution “always had a concern” about Liu acting as a surety because of his lack of connection to Canada and Vancouver.

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Earlier, Meng’s lawyer had said her husband would post bail equal to C$15 million (Dh41.1m; US$11m) in cash and equity in the couple’s homes in Vancouver to gain her release from jail in Canada while she contests possible extradition to the US.

Liu would also ensure she complies with the terms of her confinement imposed by the court, David Martin, Meng’s defence lawyer, told Justice Ehrcke. The couple own two homes valued at more than C$20m, according to property records and an affidavit from Meng.

The pledge came Monday at the second day of a bail hearing in the high-profile case that has transfixed investors on both sides of the Pacific as it stokes US-China trade tensions. Meng followed the proceedings through an interpreter at the back of the Vancouver courtroom.

“She is a woman of character and dignity,” Mr Martin told the court. “She would comply with your order.”

In response, Justice Ehrcke asked Mr Martin how Liu could possibly serve as his wife’s “jailer”, particularly if the judge couldn’t order Liu to remain in the country. Mr Martin said he wasn’t aware of Liu’s immigration status in Canada.

The bail pledge offered by the defence includes C$14m of real-estate equity and C$1m in cash.

Earlier, expert witness Scot Filer testified on behalf of the defence to explain how Meng’s whereabouts could be secured if she were to be released on bail.

Technology by itself would be no guarantee that Meng wouldn’t flee, Mr Filer, chief executive of Lions Gate Risk Management Group and a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, told the court. Using two security officers at a time, as well as a driver, and technology to oversee Meng’s whereabouts on would minimise the flight risk, he said.

“I’m very confident what we will have in place will satisfy the court,” Mr Filer said.

Meng would pay for the security operations as an added layer of assurance that she would remain in the country if granted bail, Mr Martin, told the court.

Meng was arrested on December 1 during a stopover in Vancouver on her way to Mexico. The mother of four, 46, is accused of guiding a global effort by the Chinese telecom equipment giant to mask violations of sanctions on sales to Iran.

It’s an unprecedented effort to hold accountable a senior executive who is considered part of China’s inner circle – the daughter of billionaire Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.

Crown attorney John Gibb-Carsley has argued against granting Meng bail because she is so wealthy that she will easily be able to pay whatever is required and flee. Since learning of the investigation into her alleged activities, Meng has avoided the US, and other Huawei executives have also stopped travelling there, he added.

Meng’s lawyers have in turn argued their client has no criminal record, cited high-profile character witnesses to vouch for her, and say she has substantive ties that ensure she would remain in Vancouver.

They have also cited health issues, including daily medication, to argue for her release from a Vancouver-area detention centre.

Meng’s only two valid passports – from China and Hong Kong – have already been confiscated, preventing her from boarding any commercial flights. The only place she could flee to by land is the US, which seeks her extradition, they argue.

The case has upended the relationship between Washington and Beijing as they scramble to avert higher tariffs on $200 billion of goods that could depress an already slowing Chinese economy – with potentially grave global consequences.

The move by the US to reach across borders to arrest a prominent Chinese national comes as American political leaders seek to contain the Asian country’s rapid ascent, while holding it accountable to allegations of intellectual property theft and protectionism.

The hearing in Vancouver is the start of a long legal process in Canada that could end with Meng being sent to the US to stand trial. Even though the North American neighbours have a long-standing treaty governing extradition, it can take months, even years, for a defendant to be handed over, if at all.

Should a judge agree to extradite Meng, she would have multiple chances to appeal the decision. The court was adjourned until Tuesday morning.

Updated: December 11, 2018 11:02 AM

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