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Huawei executive faces US fraud charges linked to Iran sanctions

Eric Gaillard, Reuters | Visitors walk past Huawei's booth during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on February 27, 2017.

U.S. prosecutors want a top executive of China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to face charges of fraud linked to the skirting of Iran sanctions, a Vancouver court heard on Friday.

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Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, 46, who is also the daughter of the company founder, was arrested on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States.

Meng faces charges of fraud in the United States for allegedly misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with Hong Kong-based Skycom, according to evidence read in court on Friday.

From 2009 to 2014, the court heard, Huawei used Skycom to transact business in Iran despite U.S. and European Union bans.

If extradited, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, the court heard, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge.

Meng arrived in the packed Supreme Court of British Columbia as dozens of photographers jostled outside the building. She conferred with her two lawyers through a translator.

The news of Meng’s arrest has roiled global stock markets on fears it could escalate a trade war between the United States and China after a truce was agreed last week between President Donald Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping.

Trump did not know about the arrest in advance, two U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday that neither Canada nor the United States had provided China any evidence that Meng had broken any law in those two countries, and reiterated Beijing’s demand that she be released.

Huawei said on Wednesday that “the company has been provided very little information regarding the charges and is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng.”

A Huawei spokesman declined to comment on Thursday before Meng’s court appearance and said that Wednesday’s statement still stands.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on a conference call on Friday that China had been assured by Canada that due process was “absolutely being followed.”

Huawei staff briefed on an internal memo told Reuters on Friday the company had appointed Chairman Liang Hua as acting CFO following Meng’s arrest.

Chinese state media have slammed Meng’s detention, accusing the United States of trying to “stifle” Huawei and curb its global expansion.

In January 2013, Reuters reported that Skycom Tech Co Ltd, which attempted to sell embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator, had much closer ties to Huawei than previously known.

Meng, who also has used the English names Cathy and Sabrina, served on the board of Skycom between February 2008 and April 2009, according to Skycom records and several other past and present Skycom directors appear to have connections to Huawei.

(REUTERS)

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