A U.S. federal court has agreed to release a Chinese telecom executive accused of trying to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
The agreement grants Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese company Huawei, bail while the Justice Department and its criminal case is pending.
She was arrested Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver. U.S. authorities accuse her of trying to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran, and law enforcement sources say she is a key figure in international operations of the company.
Meng pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court on Friday. Defense lawyers had warned that Meng faces decades of imprisonment if she is extradited to the United States.
The court set the condition that Meng must wear an electronic monitoring device, stay in her Vancouver home, use a bank card to leave the house for church, not leave Vancouver for travel except to visit with her parents and travel within British Columbia and Washington state.
U.S. District Judge John Z. Ziyavizh agreed to release Meng in a deal negotiated Friday by U.S. prosecutor Michael Dobner, a Department of Justice spokesman and her attorney, David Martin, of Toronto, Canada.
The deal would allow her to be monitored in Canada, allowing her to remain within Canada with the exception of traveling to Vancouver, Seattle and Portland, Oregon.
Her lawyers said that the treatment meted out to Meng amounted to imprisonment, not detention. The language of the bail agreement said that the conditions imposed were “necessary and appropriate,” and was intended to protect the community.
The agreement lets the government keep a close eye on her movements. The Justice Department indicated earlier that she would be closely monitored to ensure that she returned to Canada and complied with the bail conditions.
A provision of the agreement would allow prosecutors to put Meng under house arrest if they determined that she posed a risk of flight. Meng has no criminal record, though she is one of the most active figures on behalf of Huawei in various organizations and countries, including Canada, the United States and the U.K.
During the hearing, federal prosecutors painted a picture of Huawei’s direct business ties to Huawei affiliates in Iran, even if they were conducting activities on behalf of third parties, including Iran’s telecommunications company, which the United States alleges is an Iranian intelligence agency.
After speaking to her relatives, prosecutors said they were convinced that the conditions demanded in the bail agreement were fair and reasonable. But they said they could rein in Meng’s activities if she were released to protect the community.
Defense lawyers said that Meng would not seek any luxury travel during the bail hearing, or accept any luxurious accommodations. “She would essentially be happy to spend her time at home,” defense lawyer David Martin said.
A second attorney, Charlotte Harris, of Toronto, said that the conditions would allow her to comply with her conditions because they closely matched the conditions for the other accused in the case. “This is not just a punishment to punish her,” Harris said.
The deal requires that Meng surrender $10 million to the government. She will also have to surrender her passport.
She will have to surrender $1 million in cash, any U.S. bank accounts she may have, and any assets she may have in the United States.
Defense attorneys insisted that they didn’t consider the likelihood of winning bail, and that they were only motivated by respect for Meng’s human rights. They said Meng is a highly educated engineer who has complied with the rules of the United States.
“We could see a very different trial if this warrant for her arrest were held,” defense attorney David Martin said.
Meng faces either release on bail or some kind of confinement, a refusal to grant her release that may cause the criminal case to stall out indefinitely. Prosecutors opposed her release on bail, but after Ziyavizh ruled on the bail deal, they agreed to it.