Meng Wanzhou at Russia Calling!
Investment Forum in 2014
13 February 1972
|Residence||Vancouver, BC, Canada|
|Other names||Sabrina Meng|
|Education||Huazhong University of Science and Technology|
|Years active||from 1993|
|Title||Deputy chairwoman and CFO, Huawei|
|Criminal charge||bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracies to commit bank and wire fraud|
|Criminal status||on bail 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 February 13, 1972), also known as Sabrina Meng and Cathy 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, in British Columbia (BC), Canada at the request of the United States (US) 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 announced financial fraud charges against Meng.
Early life and education
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, which expired in 2009. 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. Acting on behalf of the US, crown lawyer 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 prior knowledge of her arrest, and only then was she arrested. During this period, Meng's luggage was searched and her passcodes were also taken from her. 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. The RCMP and CBSA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the documents.
Meng Wanzhou's extradition hearing is set to start on January 20, 2020 with a potential end date in October 2020.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government was aware of the intended arrest but had no involvement in the process. 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 met by criticism.
The Chinese embassy in Canada 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.
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.
However, 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.
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.
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.
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, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada lied about being unable to end the extradition case, as it is within his authority to do so. Botting believes Meng should be discharged based on the issue of double criminality which should be a “fairly open and shut case” for her.
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.
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.
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Ren Zhengfei laid out qualities a successor should have, including vision, character and industry-specific knowledge.
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