For almost three years the US has attempted to extradite Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou (pictured) on the back of allegations of fraud but it eventually threw in the towel.
The charges against her always seemed on the flimsy side but, nonetheless, there definitely were questions to answer. Had Meng been apprehended in the US it’s safe to assume she would have been convicted of something. Whether or not that would have changed the eventual outcome – her freedom after extensive political horse-trading – is another matter entirely.
It was Canada’s misfortune that it was compelled by the US to detain her, thus placing it on China’s ever-growing shitlist. On top of the usual forms of political and economic retaliation, China decided to reciprocate by nicking a couple of Canadians and not even charging them with anything for 18 months. Miraculously they were suddenly freed the moment the Meng situation resolved itself to China’s satisfaction.
The US Department of Justice attempted to mitigate its humiliation by getting her to sign a confession that she had been a bit naughty, in which she promised to be good from now on. But the fact remains that it was defeated in its attempts to extradite her and her return to China makes every other detail irrelevant. The ‘deferred prosecution agreement’ seems to be some kind of parole with no legal teeth in an international context.
“In entering into the deferred prosecution agreement, Meng has taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicole Boeckmann for the Eastern District of New York. “Her admissions in the statement of facts confirm that, while acting as the Chief Financial Officer for Huawei, Meng made multiple material misrepresentations to a senior executive of a financial institution regarding Huawei’s business operations in Iran in an effort to preserve Huawei’s banking relationship with the financial institution.”
“This deferred prosecution agreement will lead to the end of the ongoing extradition proceedings in Canada, which otherwise could have continued for many months, if not years,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Mark J. Lesko for the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “We are enormously grateful to Canada’s Department of Justice for its dedicated work on this extradition and for its steadfast adherence to the rule of law.”
“Meng’s admissions are evidence of a consistent pattern of deception to violate U.S. law,” said Assistant Director Alan E. Kohler Jr. of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. “The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate companies doing business in the United States when there are signs they behave with contempt for our laws.”
If this is what happens when you aggressively investigate, Alan, then you need to raise your game, son. From the start it felt like Meng was just a proxy for geopolitical sabre-rattling between the US and China, so while this outcome signals a defeat for the US it also points to an enduring ability for these two competing superpowers to reason with each other from time to time, which is reassuring.
After spending most of its resulting editorial with the usual ranting about how China will eventually crush all its adversaries, Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times eventually managed to strike a conciliatory tone. “It is imperative for both sides to take the opportunity to cool trade rows rather than escalating, and there is no need to let toxic political rhetoric poison atmosphere for the world’s most important bilateral relationship,” it wrote, apparently sincerely.
The AUKUS pact indicated an increased desire for the US and some of its allies to increase the levels of military deterrence against China. But the hope remains that the interconnectedness of global trade is the ultimate incentive for everyone to try to get along. Like the rest of the world, China has plenty of domestic problems it could do with focusing on, and we can only hope that no political leaders try to bolster their positions with a spot of war anytime soon. So, while the conclusion of the Meng case represents a defeat for the US, maybe it’s a victory for broader diplomacy. Fingers crossed.