A Chinese tech executive who was detained in Canada on fraud charges in the United States was released after years of diplomatic tension over her fate.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO, was detained in December 2018 at the request of the United States.
But an agreement reached with the United States Department of Justice caused his extradition request to be withdrawn on Friday.
The case has enraged China and strained relations with the United States and Canada.
He also raised allegations that China detained Canadian citizens in retaliation, which China denied.
“My life was turned upside down,” Meng told reporters after being released from house arrest in Canada. “It was a confusing period for me.”
“Every cloud has its positive side,” he continued, adding, “I will never forget all the good wishes I have received from people all over the world.”
Details of a possible deal to free Meng have been the subject of intense negotiations between US and Chinese diplomats.
The United States alleged that Meng misled HSBC about the true nature of Huawei’s relationship with a company called Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Iran.
On Friday, the US Department of Justice said it had reached an agreement to delay the prosecution.
This means that the Justice Department will refrain from prosecuting Meng until December 2022. If he meets the conditions set by the court, the case will eventually be dropped.
The agreement, which recommended his release, allowed him to formally deny the charges against him and at the same time acknowledge the accusations made by the Americans.
Later on Friday, Canadian prosecutors told a Vancouver court that they had halted efforts to extradite her to the United States and that she should be released.
For three years, Meng was under house arrest at his multi-million dollar Vancouver home.
Before her court appearance, Meng was seen entering the building accompanied by Chinese consular officials.
Later, the judge ordered his release.
A person familiar with the matter told the BBC that he could return to China on Saturday.
As part of the deal, Meng accepted a “statement of fact” in which he admits that he knowingly made false statements to HSBC.
The Justice Department said Meng “has assumed responsibility for his leading role in executing a plan to defraud an international financial institution.”
Meng is the eldest daughter of billionaire Ren Changfei, who founded Huawei in 1987. The company is now the world’s largest manufacturer of communications equipment.
His father 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 its devices may be used by Chinese authorities to spy, accusations that Beijing has denied.
In 2019, the United States imposed sanctions on Huawei and placed it on an export blacklist, separating it from major technology companies.
The UK, Sweden, Australia and Japan also banned Huawei, while other countries, including France and India, took steps that do not amount to a complete ban.
A few days after 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 a political bargaining chip, as part of what is known as “hostage diplomacy.” But China denies it.
Last month, a Chinese court convicted businessman Michael Spavor of espionage and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.
Canada condemned the ruling, saying its trial did not meet even the minimum standards required by international law.
Gordon Correra Analysis – Security Editor
For months, there have been intense behind-the-scenes contacts, with top Huawei executives sent by the company to Washington to try to solve a problem that has fueled international tension.
For Huawei’s boss, the case was very personal, with his daughter in custody, but for all of China, it has also become a major source of anger. It also soured relations between China and Canada, with the latter believing that two of its citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, had been considered pawns in the negotiations.
The deal could ease some of the tensions that have arisen. But there will still be questions like: What does the United States gain from this? And what kind of connection could there be between the events in North America and the case of Kovrig and Spavor in China?
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