OTTAWA — Senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has reached a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors that will allow her to return to China in a development that will have major consequences beyond North America.
The Chinese telecom giant’s chief financial officer is appearing by virtual link in a Brooklyn courtroom to resolve charges that underpin a U.S. extradition request against her, according to documents filed in the Eastern District of New York.
Reuters was the first to report that she is expected to reach a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors.
Canadian police arrested Meng in December 2018 at the Vancouver airport on a U.S. extradition warrant. She’s accused of fraud in the U.S. connected to her alleged violation of American sanctions on Iran.
The court fight, which started with her arrest more than 1,000 days ago, has become a key component in the tensions between the West and Beijing.
Her arrest angered Beijing, which has been demanding her release. If Meng secures her freedom, it could be seen as a big win for Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During a July meeting between Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and China's Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng, Beijing's list of demands included a request that the U.S. unconditionally revoke the extradition request for Meng.
CBC News reported that Meng is expected to pay a fine as part of a deal to defer charges. The details of that anticipated plea are unclear.
The report, citing unnamed sources, says if the New York court accepts the deal, Canadian prosecutors will appear in a Vancouver court later Friday to suspend extradition proceedings. The outlet says she could be freed from house arrest later in the day.
The New York Times reported that Meng will admit to some wrongdoing as part of a deferred prosecution agreement. Federal prosecutors, the report said, will defer and then ultimately drop the charges.
Meng will not enter a guilty plea as part of the deal, the report said.
Her legal team and U.S. Department of Justice officials have held talks about a possible deferred prosecution agreement since last winter.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei's founder, has denied wrongdoing and her case has angered Beijing.
The Chinese government has called the charges politically motivated.
Days after her arrest, then-President Donald Trump said during an interview that he would be willing to intervene if it would help the U.S. land a trade deal with China or serve other American national security interests.
John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, has rejected the idea that politics are involved in the case against Meng.
Meanwhile, other individuals have been caught in the middle.
Nine days after her arrest, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — on espionage charges. Spavor was given an 11-year sentence and a court date for Kovrig’s verdict has yet to be set.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called their arrests “arbitrary” and has pushed for their release by rallying allies — including President Joe Biden. The president pledged earlier this year to work to free the men, known colloquially in Canada as the “Two Michaels.”
Biden and Trudeau discussed Kovrig and Spavor during a call this week.
The Globe and Mail reported that Meng's plea agreement does not include a deal to free the two Michaels. It remains to be seen if Canada has its own understanding with China that could lead to their eventual release.
A few weeks after their arrests, a Chinese court toughened its sentence for another Canadian, Robert Schellenberg. The court changed his initial sentence of 15 years for drug trafficking to a death sentence.
The cases have damaged Chinese-Canadian diplomatic relations — and has long been Trudeau's top foreign policy challenge.
Leah Nylen contributed to this report.
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