Meng Wanzhou at Russia Calling!
Investment Forum in 2014
13 February 1972
Chinese (Hong Kong) (2012-)
|Other names||Cathy Meng|
|Education||Huazhong University of Science and Technology|
|Years active||from 1993|
|Title||Deputy chairwoman and CFO, Huawei|
|Criminal charge(s)||bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud|
|Criminal status||on bail and under house arrest in Vancouver, Canada; subject of an extradition request made by the United States for which an Authority to Proceed has been issued|
Liu Xiaozong (m. 2007)
Meng Wanzhou (Chinese: 孟晚舟; born 13 February 1972), also known as Cathy Meng and Sabrina Meng, is a Chinese business executive. She is deputy chairwoman of the board and chief financial officer (CFO) of China's largest private company, the telecom giant Huawei founded by her father Ren Zhengfei.
On December 1, 2018, Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the request of the United States for allegedly defrauding multiple financial institutions in breach of US imposed bans on dealing with Iran. On January 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced financial fraud charges against Meng. The first stage of the extradition hearing for Meng began Monday January 20, 2020. On February 13, 2020 Meng was personally indicted by the DOJ on charges of trade secrets theft. If proven guilty Meng potentially faces up to 10 years imprisonment per 18 U.S.C. § 1832.
After graduating from college in 1992, she worked for China Construction Bank for a year before joining Huawei, a startup founded by her father, as a secretary. She attended graduate school in 1997 and earned a master's degree in accounting from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology. She moved to Vancouver, Canada, and obtained permanent residency in 2001. Meng also has had Hong Kong permanent residence since at least 2011.
In an interview with the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald, she said her career took off after she returned to Huawei in 1998 to work in the finance department. She held positions including head of international accounting, CFO of Huawei Hong Kong, and director of the Accounting Management Department.
When Huawei first published the names of its top executives in 2011, Meng was already listed as its CFO. In March 2018, she was appointed one of the four vice chairpersons of the board, fueling speculation that she was being groomed to eventually succeed her father, although Ren has denied that. He has told Sina Tech that "none of my family members possess [suitable] qualities" and "will never be included in the sequence of successors".
As of December 2018, Meng is the deputy chairwoman and CFO of Huawei, China's largest private company with 180,000 employees. In 2017, Forbes ranked Meng 8th in its list of Outstanding Businesswomen of China, while Huawei chairwoman Sun Yafang (who stepped down in March 2018) was ranked second.
On December 1, 2018, while transferring planes at Vancouver International Airport en route to Mexico from Hong Kong, Meng was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at the request of the United States, pursuant to the extradition treaty between Canada and the United States. On December 7, it was revealed that an arrest warrant had been issued on August 22, 2018 by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. According to Crown counsel in Canadian court, Meng was "charged with conspiracy to defraud multiple international institutions". The warrant was based on allegations of a conspiracy to defraud banks which had cleared money that was claimed to be for Huawei, but was actually for Skycom, an entity claimed to be entirely controlled by Huawei, which was said to be dealing with Iran, contrary to sanctions. According to the defense lawyer, the bank involved in the dealings was HSBC. The allegations were rejected by Meng's defense lawyer, who claimed she did not break any US or Canadian laws. The Crown counsel said that the case against Meng stemmed from a 2013 Reuters report about the company's close ties to Hong Kong-based Skycom Tech, which attempted to sell US equipment to Iran, despite US and European Union bans.
From December 7 to 11, Meng attended a bail hearing in Vancouver. She was released on a $10 million bail that was granted with conditions, including electronic surveillance. She was required to hand over her passports, of which seven were listed in her court records. A further passport whose serial number begins with "P" was not listed; these passports are normally issued to employees of the Chinese government for travel related to public affairs.
Under Canada's Extradition Act, the deadline for the US to request extradition was January 30, 2019 (60 days after an arrest); on January 28, the Department of Justice Canada confirmed that the US had formally requested Meng's extradition. The Canadian government had until March 1, 2019 to decide whether to authorize an extradition hearing.
Also on January 28, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and other officials released a redacted version of an indictment filed January 24, 2019, against Meng personally as well as three corporate entities (including Huawei) and at least one other person whose name was redacted. Meng was charged with bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud. The same day, the US government announced a different indictment against Huawei relating to theft of trade secrets; but that does not pertain to Meng personally.
On March 3, 2019, Meng's lawyers announced that they had filed a lawsuit against the Canadian federal government, the RCMP, and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The suit, filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court, alleges that Meng had been detained, searched, and interrogated by CBSA agents before being informed that she was under arrest. The civil claim, which names three "John Doe" CBSA officers, an RCMP constable, and the Attorney General of Canada as defendants, was issued on March 1, 2019.
On March 6, 2019, Meng had a brief appearance in court where one of her lawyers, Richard Peck, claimed that the defence would be making a number of interlocutory applications to be heard before the hearing could begin. There was heavy interest in the Vancouver court appearance, with a long line of people unable to get in to the small, packed courtroom. The court's media accreditation committee was inundated with requests from reporters around the world. Outside the courthouse, protestors demonstrating against the Chinese government showed photographs of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians detained in China, and one protestor burned a Chinese flag.
On May 8, 2019, Meng appeared before court. Her legal team claimed the Canadian government is withholding key evidence relevant to how and why Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport, which may have been in violation of her constitutional rights at the outset of an American extradition process. During the session, Meng's defense argued "her case should be tossed anyway because: her arrest was an abuse of process; the fraud charge she is facing in the United States is for a crime that doesn't exist in Canada; and the U.S. government's extradition request represents an 'abuse of power.'" Defence lawyer Scott Fenton described US President Donald Trump's comments suggesting Meng could be part of a trade deal with China as "intimidating and corrosive of the rule of law." The court ruled that Crown prosecutors must defend the level of evidence that they have so far disclosed relating to Meng's initial detention by the CBSA and subsequent arrest by the RCMP, and that Meng may move to her second Vancouver property. Her next court appearance has been scheduled for September 23, 2019.
On June 10, 2019, months of appearances and submission deadlines were agreed to at a management hearing which Meng did not attend. Meng's lawyers argued that the alleged fraud leveled against Meng do not meet the requirements of double criminality, since it is based on a breach of US sanctions on Iran that do not apply in Canada. Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley argued against an early ruling on the issue of double criminality, saying it was wrong to separate it from the overall extradition ruling. Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes questioned the rationale behind delaying settling the double criminality issue. Holmes set aside an early portion of the committal proceedings specifically to address the issue of double criminality.
On 20 August 2019, documents, video footage, and affidavits relating to Meng's arrest were released. According to Meng's defense, the RCMP and border officials drafted these documents based on a strategy of omission to subvert Meng's ability to learn of her arrest. Together they coordinated the delay of her arrest so that they could question her under the pretense of a routine immigration check. Allegedly three RCMP officers stood nearby and watched when the CBSA detained Meng, despite knowing the warrant called for her immediate arrest. The documents suggest they had originally planned to immediately arrest her after she landed by boarding the plane. Instead once Meng was detained, she was then subjected to a three hour questioning period without being informed of her arrest, and only then was she officially arrested. Questions asked include her business dealings with Iran, however CBSA officers skipped note taking for this portion of the screening despite having taken meticulous notes for other portions. During this period, Meng's luggage was searched and her electronic devices as well as their passcodes were taken from her. The CBSA officer who took the pass codes to Meng's phones received a 17-second phone call minutes earlier which is not accounted for in the documents. According to an email from the RCMP, her luggage was only searched for immigration and customs purposes and the RCMP officers acted "lawfully and in good faith at all times." However the notes show the RCMP asked the FBI if they were interested in Meng's luggage. Documents released also include a correspondence between Crown lawyer John Gibb-Carsley and defence lawyer David Martin stating that the U.S. no longer seeks the electronic devices seized from Meng. The RCMP and CBSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the documents. Defense lawyer Richard Peck cites an affidavit from the RCMP mentioning seizing “any electronic devices . . . to preserve evidence as there will be a request from the FBI.” According to Peck, law enforcement and the FBI made it a priority to seize devices, and this was done without question by Canada. The CBSA responded saying there was no evidence of this.
The attorney general offered to return the devices seized from Meng on the condition that her defense accept the assertion that neither the Mounties or the CBSA searched them. If her defense does not accept the offer, they will have to seek a court order to have the devices forensically analyzed to determine if they were searched or not. Forensic analysis of the devices show they were not searched, however according to defense lawyer Scott Fenton, it does reveal that on Dec. 4, 2018, several of them were turned on and at least one was connected to the internet.
The Crown prosecutors described the defense's actions as a "fishing" expedition, and that the CBSA was only going through proper processing of Meng's entry into Canada, which was not a foregone conclusion. Defense lawyer Scott Fenton described this as "absurd", since "she was never going to be returned to Hong Kong or not allowed into Canada," adding that "in no universe of possibilities was Ms. Meng going to be turned away."
Crown lawyer Robert Frater said there is "nothing to" the allegations that the RCMP and CBSA ignored their legal obligations and that their actions during the arrest of Meng were "not at all sinister." He described the defense's allegations as a non-existent conspiracy. Meng's lawyers questioned why Meng was questioned about business in Iran by the CBSA, to which Frater responded that they must question about a traveller's alleged criminal behavior. Justice Heather Holmes asked what would have happened had Meng admitted to criminality during the interview. Frater replied, “He would make a decision about admissibility,” The defense added that the CBSA did not finish Meng's adminissability examination before it was suspended and the RCMP arrested her. Crown lawyer Diba Majzub notes that even if a traveller were deemed inadmissable, the RCMP could still execute an arrest on the person while in detention or released with conditions pending a hearing.
On 1 October 2019, Crown lawyers argued that the CBSA had handed over Meng's passcodes to the RCMP by mistake and took steps to remedy this error. Crown prosecutor Diba Majzub described this as "not a deliberate action but an error” and provided an email by a CBSA officer describing it as such. The email sent from CBSA agent Nicole Goodman to Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley, says, "I became aware the passcodes for the phone were provided in error to the RCMP at the time of the transfer of Ms Meng and her belongings … I advised the RCMP the passcodes should not have been provided by CBSA as the passcodes were CBSA information obtained during the CBSA examination, and the passcodes could not be used to access the devices nor shared with a third party (ie: other law enforcement agency).” The CBSA asked for the passcodes to be returned but the RCMP refused, stating that this was impossible as they had already become part of the court record of Meng's case. The next day, Gibb-Carsley argued that there is no evidence the RCMP ever requested or used the passcodes while there is evidence they were given by the CBSA in error. Justice Holmes questioned CBSA's use of Mylar bags (anti-tampering equipment) to contain the seized devices and their association with the U.S. extradition request. Notes by the RCMP from the morning of December 1 say the CBSA will locate Meng's phones as requested by the FBI and put them in Mylar bags at their suggestion. Gibb-Carsley said the CBSA had "legitimate purpose" to bag them.
On 3 October 2019, the defense asserted that an RCMP officer's notes say a staff sergeant emailed to the FBI the serial numbers, SIM card numbers, and international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) numbers of Meng's devices. An email between two RCMP officers on Dec. 4 references sending serial numbers and other information about Meng's devices to a "legat," an FBI legal attaché office outside the US. Crown lawyer Robert Frater produced two emails by the staff sergeant saying he did not provide the information to the FBI and offered to produce documents from five other RCMP officers on the topic. The Crown will have until 9 October to produce these documents and the defense until 16 October to respond.
All affidavits from six police officers claim they did not share the electronic identifying numbers of Meng's devices. However Staff Sergeant Peter Lea, now retired, did discuss sharing the information with the FBI's legal attache, John Sgroi. He said Sgroi would first have to make a formal request under the Canada-US Legal Assistance Treaty. A note made by Sergeant Janice Vander Graaf also said that “Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal told her that Staff Sergeant Ben Chang provided the [electronic serial number] information to FBI Legat Sgroi”. Vander Graaf admits she wrote the note but asserts that she has "no independent knowledge or recollection" of the information that her notes indicated the other officer had given her. Dhaliwal says he does not recall anyone telling him technical information had been shared or sharing such information with Vander Graaf. A search of Chang's RCMP external email log shows that on 2 December 2018, an email titled “Re: Arrest at YVR" was sent to Sherri Onks of the FBI. An RCMP officer tasked with searching Chang's emails to Onks writes that Chang's email account was deleted when he retired in July 2019. Meng's defense questioned why neither Vander Graaf or Dhaliwal could recall their conversation and asked for more documents to be released due to inconsistencies in the RCMP's emails and notes. Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes granted the defense's request for the release of more documents, citing "notable gaps" in the evidence provided by the attorney general, which was "strategic in its character yet impoverished in its substance." The disclosure of documents is not required by the order.
On 10 January 2020, Canadian federal prosecutors argued that the court need not consider US sanctions law because Meng's conduct amounts to fraud under Canadian law. Earlier in November, Meng's defense argued that Meng could not be extradited because her conduct was not illegal in Canada since Canada did not have the same sanctions against Iran at the time Canadian officials authorized the extradition proceedings. According to the defense, this is "a case of U.S. sanctions enforcement masquerading as Canadian fraud," and not only are banks in Canada allowed to do business with Iran-based entities, they are encouraged to do so.
On January 20, 2020, Meng's extradition hearing began. Justice Heather Holmes asked the defense if domestic prosecution would be viable had Meng's alleged conduct occurred in Canada. Meng's defense answered no because the bank would face no liability for the alleged fraud. Holmes questioned whether or not all financial loss to the bank must occur in Canada for the fraud to be prosecuted and suggested that the bank may suffer reputational risk regardless of the location. According to the attorney general, the matter is not complex; lying to a bank is fraud. Crown counsel Robert Frater argued that sanctions law need not be considered to understand the reputational risk Meng's conduct posed to HSBC. However defense lawyer Scott Fenton countered, stating that "there must be actual risk posed to the economic interests of the victim" in a fraud case. He took issue with Frater's argument and called it an "oxymoron" as "No possibility of risk means no loss at all." Meng's lawyer Richard Peck also invoked Canada's status as a sovereign state to reject what he considered the attempted application of US laws to Meng's case.
Four hours after Meng Wanzhou was detained, she called Song Liuping, Huawei's chief legal officer and a member of the board of directors. Song relayed her arrest to Beijing, where Xi Jinping found out after the post-summit dinner with Donald Trump. According to Chinese and Huawei sources, Xi was furious that he learned of this from his officials rather than the Canadians. A Canadian foreign-affairs official claims the federal government reached out to Chinese diplomats as soon as Meng was arrested, who had consular access to Meng within a few hours. However the Chinese embassy in Ottawa says they learned of her arrest from Beijing, not from the Canadian government. The Chinese consulate in Vancouver says "it had not been informed by Canadian foreign affairs officials about the arrest of Ms. Meng Wanzhou."
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa issued a strong statement condemning her arrest and the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the Canadian and American ambassadors in protest over the detention. Chinese media have alleged that the arrest is part of an attempt by the US to stifle Huawei and its other tech companies. According to David MacNaughton, the Chinese believe the arrest was coordinated at the highest levels by Canadian and U.S. authorities.
On December 9, 2018, the government of China told Canadian ambassador John McCallum that Meng's arrest "severely violated the Chinese citizen's legal and legitimate rights and interests, it is lawless, reasonless and ruthless, and it is extremely vicious" and warned of "serious consequences" unless Meng was released. The subsequent arrest of former diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing may be part of those consequences, according to former Canadian ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques. Shortly afterwards China detained businessman Michael Spavor, another Canadian national, in an escalating diplomatic row. Their arrests were made under the National Security Law that came into effect in 2015, a comprehensive piece of legislation that gives Chinese authorities broad powers. The detention of the Canadians is widely regarded as an act of Hostage diplomacy. The 2019 arrest of Australian Yang Hengjun is seen by many to be a continuation of the hostage diplomacy strategy and to be direct retaliation for the Australian government strongly condemning the arrest of the Canadians.
China's ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, wrote in a Hill Times op-ed on January 9 accusing Canada of "Western egotism and white supremacy". He warned on January 17 that he believed there would be "repercussions" from China if Canada were to choose to exclude Huawei from supplying equipment for its future 5G networks. In June 2019, it was announced that Lu Shaye was leaving his ambassadorial post.
On November 6, 2019, Geng Shuang, spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry urged the re-elected Canadian government to release Meng Wanzhou to move the bilateral relationship between China and Canada "onto the right track".
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government was aware of the intended arrest but had no involvement in the process. According to David MacNaughton, Canada's former ambassador to Washington, the extradition request was made very suddenly on November 30, with no discussion between U.S. and Canadian officials. However MacNaughton also says the U.S. has several agendas in going after Huawei, one of which is that it wants its allies to ban it. A close adviser of Justin Trudeau says the view inside the Canadian government is that John Bolton was the driving force behind the arrest of Meng. Trudeau was informed of Meng's arrest at the 2018 G20 Buenos Aires summit, and according to one source, was caught off guard.
Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, rejected China's demand that the Canadian Government should block the extradition, despite China's decision to block imports of Canadian canola seed (an important foreign export revenue earner), and warned Beijing that "It would be a very dangerous precedent indeed for Canada to alter its behavior when it comes to honoring an extradition treaty in response to external pressure". She added that to do so could make Canadians around the world less safe.
Canada's Ambassador to China, John McCallum said, "From Canada's point of view, if (the U.S.) drops the extradition request, that would be great for Canada." On January 26, 2019, McCallum resigned as Canada's ambassador to China at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canada's Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, says the arrests of Canadians in China are an "arbitrary action", and that Canada will continue to demand that the detainees are treated fairly. Goodale says that China has produced no evidence to indicate any validity to the criminal allegations against them. The aforementioned former Canadian Ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, says that leveraging international support for Canada, particularly from the US, will be necessary, that an anticipated Canada-China free trade deal should be taken off the table, that inspections of Chinese goods entering Canada should be increased, and that Canada should lodge a complaint against China at the World Trade Organization (WTO), over its decision to ban the importation of Canadian canola seed.
Former Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chrétien has suggested cancelling Meng's extradition case to unfreeze relations with China. Chrétien has said privately that "the United States played a trick on Canada by forcing Ottawa to arrest Ms. Meng, and called the extradition request an unacceptable move by the United States at the expense of Canada and its farmers and pork producers."
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs John Manley has stated that Canadian allies such as Germany have let Canada down in their support of Canada: "Where have the Germans been? Have they said we’re not talking to you, China, until you talk to Canada – no. What about our other so-called progressive friends?" According to Manley the simplest way out of the Meng affair would be for the U.S. to simply withdraw the extradition request. However Manley believes the key to this is convincing Donald Trump, which is unlikely.
A White House official stated that "President Donald Trump did not know about a US request for her extradition from Canada before he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and agreed to a 90-day truce in the brewing trade war", while U.S. National Security Advisor John R. Bolton said that he knew in advance of Meng's arrest.
US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said that Meng Wanzhou's arrest was "a criminal justice matter" that should have no impact on the trade talks between both countries, but Trump said he could intervene, in order to get a good trade deal with China. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added, foreign policy must be taken into consideration in this case, and the mission is "America First". The remarks were criticized for politicizing the situation. Pompeo later rejected any connection between the arrest of the two Michaels in China and Meng Wanzhou.
Criminal defense lawyer Gary Botting, who has provided some legal advice to Meng’s defence team, and is one of the country's leading authorities on extradition law, described Meng's extradition case as "silly" and obviously a "political type of enterprise that the United States is engaged in." According to Botting, section 23 of the Extradition Act specifically gives the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada the statutory authority to terminate any extradition case, even though the Attorney General, David Lametti, claimed that to do so would violate the rule of law. Botting says that "It's really silliness for him to say he has to obey the rule of law because it's before the courts. No. What (the law) says is that he can stop the whole process and the courts must comply with whatever he decides." Botting believes Meng should be discharged based on the issue of double criminality which should be a "fairly open and shut case" for her.
According to Joseph Bellinger, a former legal adviser and senior associate counsel to the George W. Bush administration, he is not aware of the U.S. ever having prosecuted someone for the conduct which Meng is being indicted. He further adds that the charges levelled against Meng "go well beyond any set of criminal charges related to violations of U.S. sanctions in Iran of which I am aware."
Eric Lewis, a U.S. lawyer specializing in international fraud and corruption cases, says "in a case like this one, where Ms. Meng is in all likelihood executing corporate policy, one would expect individuals not to be charged and the corporation would be fined." For example, in June 2018, Ericsson reached a settlement with the U.S. government, agreeing to pay more than US$145,000 for breaching sanctions against Sudan. Lewis speculates that the U.S. picked Canada to arrest Meng and not other countries it has extradition treaties with because South American countries are more formal and extradition could take longer, and European countries might be less willing to cooperate on prosecutions of a political or strategic character.
Meng Wanzhou's father, Ren Zhengfei, says she should be proud to be a bargaining chip between China and the United States. He says the experience of hardship and suffering is good for Meng, who now calls him much more than in the past, when she might not even text him for an entire year. Ren states that when Meng returns to Huawei, she will keep her old job, because the company would lose its competitive edge if led by someone without strategic acumen.
On February 13, 2020 US criminal charges named Meng Wanzhou. The unsealed US indictment alleged a "decades-long" effort to steal trade secrets from American companies, that Huawei and its proxies conspired "to misappropriate intellectual property", and Meng lied to HSBC bank. If proven guilty Meng potentially faces up to 10 years imprisonment per 18 U.S.C. § 1832.
Meng's mother is Ren Zhengfei's first wife, Meng Jun, who is the daughter of Meng Dongbo, a former deputy secretary of East China Military and Administrative Committees and deputy governor of Sichuan Province. She has a younger brother Ren Ping (formerly Meng Ping), who also works for Huawei. After divorcing Meng Jun, Ren Zhengfei married Yao Ling, with whom he had another daughter, Annabel Yao, who is 25 years younger than Meng. Annabel Yao made a high-profile debut at Le Bal des Débutantes in Paris in November 2018.
Ren Zhengfei laid out qualities a successor should have, including vision, character and industry-specific knowledge.