The U.S. Justice Department is discussing a deal with Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers that would allow the Huawei executive to return to China from Canada and avoid extradition to America, according to multiple media reports.
The Wall Street Journal first reported news of the potential deferred prosecution agreement, citing people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing legal case.
Reuters later confirmed the report, also citing an anonymous source.
According to the Wall Street Journal’s sources, the deal would require Meng to admit to some of the allegations in the criminal case against her, which prosecutors would then drop if Meng co-operated.
Negotiations between Meng’s lawyers and the Justice Department picked up after the U.S. presidential election, Reuters’ source said, adding it is still unclear what kind of deal can be struck.
Meng does not think she did anything wrong and therefore is reluctant to make admissions that she does not think are true, that person said.
The source said it does not appear to be part of a larger deal with Huawei.
Meng is wanted in the United States on charges of bank fraud over allegations related to U.S. sanctions against Iran that both she and tech giant Huawei deny.
She was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States, and has been under house arrest in Vancouver ever since as she and her lawyers fight extradition to the U.S.
Meng’s lawyers have argued in B.C. Supreme Court that her arrest was unlawful and mishandled by the RCMP. They also allege political interference on the part of the U.S., citing comments by President Donald Trump who said Meng could be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China.
U.S. Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi declined to comment on the negotiations to Reuters. Global News has also reached out to both the U.S. and Canadian justice departments for comment, but has not independently verified the reports.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and foreign ministry had no immediate comment. Huawei has also not responded to requests for comment.
Meng’s case has soured Canada’s relations with China, who detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on allegations of espionage shortly after Meng’s arrest. The two men remain in Chinese detention to this day, with China suggesting they could be freed in exchange for Meng’s release.
Deferred prosecution agreements are usually negotiated for corporations rather than individuals, allowing businesses to avoid criminal charges in exchange for significantly reduced penalties. Typically, companies still have to plead guilty to wrongdoing under such deals.
In Canada, SNC-Lavalin ultimately struck a similar deal with federal prosecutors in 2019 that allowed the engineering giant to avoid criminal charges of corruption. The company still plead guilty to fraud and agreed to pay a fine of $280 million over five years, along with a three-year probation.
Negotiations over a deferred prosecution agreement ultimately sparked the SNC-Lavalin affair that ensnared Trudeau’s government through early 2019.
— With files from the Canadian Press and Reuters