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Huawei's Meng Wanzhou faces charges over alleged conspiracy to defraud banks

Huawei's chief financial officer has been charged in Vancouver - REUTERS
Huawei's chief financial officer has been charged in Vancouver - REUTERS

Huawei's chief financial officer faces charges over an alleged conspiracy to defraud banking institutions.

Meng Wanzhou, 46, was arrested in Canada last week and is wanted in the US over "fraud offences", a Vancouver court heard during a bail hearing on Friday.

Canadian prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley said that the telecoms giant used a subsidiary, Hong Kong-based firm Skycom, to do business with Iran, bypassing US sanctions.

Ms Meng allegedly misled bankers by assuring them that Skycom and Huawei were separate companies, after links between them were reported by Reuters in 2013. This put the banks at risk of breaching sanctions. "SkyCom is Huawei", he told the court. 

He added that Ms Meng should not be granted bail because she could be a flight risk due to her wealth and connections abroad. She faces multiple charges, each carrying a penalty of up to 30 years in prison upon conviction.  Huawei has denied violating sanctions.

Ms Meng’s lawyer David Martin said the evidence presented does not prove she broke either US or Canadian law. There are exemptions for telecom equipment in US sanctions against Iran, he argued.

He said his client would not flee because going against a court order would humiliate and embarrass her father, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei. 

She would also agree to be electronically monitored, he said, and her "extraordinary resources" should not be used to justify denying her bail. 

No decision was reached after nearly six hours of arguments and counter-arguments, and the hearing was adjourned until Monday. 

The warrant was issued by a New York court on August 22, and Ms Meng was arrested as she travelled from Hong Kong to Mexico via Canada on December 1. 

The United States has 60 days to make a formal extradition request, which a Canadian judge will assess, and it is then up to Canada's justice minister to decide whether she can be extradited.  

Huawei has been viewed with suspicion in the United States, which has claimed the company is linked to the Chinese government, and the case marks the latest development in an ongoing trade war between the countries. 

Huawei has denied that it poses a security risk, and China has demanded the release of Ms Meng.

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