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Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou returns to China after US deal

Meng Wanzhou (C) leaves the Supreme Court of British Columbia

A Chinese tech executive detained in Canada for fraud in the United States has left the country after a deal with prosecutors, after years of diplomatic tensions over her fate.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested for fraud in December 2018 at the behest of the United States.

The US Department of Justice on Friday dropped an extradition request for her.

The affair has infuriated China and strained relations with the United States and Canada.

It also sparked accusations that China had detained Canadian citizens in retaliation, which China has denied.

“My life was turned upside down. It was a disruptive time for me,” Ms. Meng told reporters after being released from detention in Canada.

“Every cloud has a ray of hope,” she continued, adding, “I will never forget all the good wishes I have received from people all over the world.”

Shortly after, she boarded an Air China flight to the Chinese city of Shenzhen, AFP news agency reported.

Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou returns to China after US deal

Meng Wanzhou reportedly left Vancouver International Airport on Air China flight to Shenzhen

The details of a possible deal for Ms Meng’s release have been the subject of intense negotiations between U.S. and Chinese diplomats.

The United States has alleged that Ms Meng misled HSBC bank about the true nature of Huawei’s relationship with a company called Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Iran.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said on Friday it had reached an agreement on deferred prosecution.

This means that the DOJ will not prosecute Ms Meng until December 2022. If she complied with the conditions set by the court, the case would ultimately be closed.

The deal, which recommended his release, allowed him to formally deny his guilt on key charges while acknowledging the allegations made by the Americans.

Later Friday, Canadian prosecutors told a Vancouver court that they had withdrawn their efforts to extradite her to the United States and that she should be released from detention.

She had been under house arrest at her multi-million dollar house in Vancouver for almost three years.

Before the court appearance, Ms. Meng was seen entering the building accompanied by Chinese consular officials.

The judge subsequently ordered that she be released.

As part of the deal, Ms Meng accepted a “statement of facts” admitting that she knowingly made false statements to HSBC.

The DOJ said Ms. Meng had “taken responsibility for her primary role in the commission of a scheme to defraud a global financial institution.”

The DOJ also said it was continuing preparations for the lawsuit against Huawei.

Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou returns to China after US deal

Analysis box by Gordon Corera, security correspondent

For months, there were plenty of behind-the-scenes contact, with senior Huawei executives sent to Washington by the company to try to resolve a case that fueled international tensions.

For the Huawei boss, the issue has been deeply personal, with his daughter detained, but for all of China it has also become a major cause of anger. It has also poisoned relations between China and Canada, the latter believing that two of its citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, have been held up as pawns in the negotiations.

An agreement has the ability to reduce some of the tensions that have emerged. But there will always be questions – what does the United States get out of it? And what connection could there be between the events in North America and the status of the two Michael in China?

Ms. Meng is the eldest daughter of billionaire Ren Zhengfei, who founded Huawei in 1987. The company is today the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment.

He served in the Chinese army for nine years, until 1983, and is also a member of the Chinese Communist Party.

Huawei has faced accusations that Chinese authorities may be using its equipment for espionage – allegations it denies.

In 2019, the United States imposed sanctions on Huawei and placed it on an export blacklist, cutting it off from key technologies.

The UK, Sweden, Australia and Japan have also banned Huawei, while other countries, including France and India, have adopted measures that go as far as an outright ban.

Days after Ms Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on suspicion of espionage.

Critics have accused China of treating them as political currencies, held in so-called “hostage diplomacy.” China denies this.

Last month, a Chinese court found businessman Michael Spavor guilty of espionage and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

Canada condemned the conviction, saying his trial fell short of even minimum standards required by international law.

Meng’s deal with the United States could pave the way for the release of the two Canadians, but tensions in Sino-Canadian relations will not dissipate quickly, experts say.

The bilateral relationship has plunged to historic lows since Meng’s arrest.

The US charges against Huawei remain and the company is still on a commercial blacklist. Other Chinese tech companies operating in the United States, such as social media company TikTok, are also coming under close scrutiny.

Chinese tech industry analyst Rui Ma told the BBC that many Chinese companies are hopeful that Ms. Meng’s deal with the United States could mean further deterioration in US-China relations, “but no one thinks that there is a reversal of tensions “.