Reports that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou will appear in US court to settle fraud charges against her are giving Canadian observers hope for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two men. Canadians who were detained in China in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest in Vancouver.
Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said the development should lead to new negotiations between Ottawa and Beijing to secure the Michaels’ return to Canada.
“I hope (Beijing) is not asking too much of Canada and that all of this can be concluded in a few weeks,” Saint-Jacques said Friday morning. “Otherwise, there will be a lot of criticism from other countries.”
Resolving the US charges through a deferred prosecution agreement, the details of which were not known Friday morning, would have a ripple effect for Meng and, likely, the two Michaels. With the fraud charges resolved, the case to extradite Meng to the US from Vancouver, where she has been detained since December 2018, can be formally dropped by the US government. That would leave Meng free to return to China.
US authorities had charged Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, with fraud based on allegations that he misled HSBC about Huawei’s business in Iran, in violation of US sanctions against that country.
Reuters reported on Friday that U.S. Department of Justice officials had reached a settlement with Meng that would have her virtually appear before Judge Ann Donnelly in a Brooklyn court on Friday afternoon and then in a Vancouver court. .
Canadian officials did not confirm the deal, but one told the Star there will be news in a Canadian courtroom later today.
Spavor and Kovrig were arrested within days of each other in China in 2018, shortly after Canadian authorities arrested Meng at Vancouver International Airport at the request of the United States. The two Michaels have been detained in China ever since, facing charges of espionage.
Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison last month by a Chinese court. His sentence included the wording that Spavor would be deported, but did not say when, leaving an opportunity to continue negotiations between Canada and China to secure his release.
Kovrig has not yet been sentenced.
A March for the Michaels, marking 1,000 days since they were detained in China, took place in Ottawa earlier this month.
Saint-Jacques linked the Kovrig and Spavor cases to that of Kevin Garratt, a Canadian who was released after being detained in China on espionage charges that he denied. Saint-Jacques helped negotiate Garratt’s release in that case, saying China called at the time to open a new dialogue between the countries and the development of an extradition treaty.
Canada accepted the first question, but not the second, and Garratt was released after being sentenced in China and deported to Canada.
“In this case, I suppose it would be similar. They will have to announce the sentence of Michael Kovrig, and the newsroom will say that he will be deported, ”Saint-Jacques said.
The former ambassador said he was “quite pleased and a bit surprised” to hear the developments in Meng’s case on Friday morning.
“I know there have been previous attempts to reach an agreement with the prosecution,” he said. “What we’re seeing now, I think, is the culmination of the discussions, and I think both Beijing and Washington wanted to solve this case because they want to find ways to improve the relationship (between them) a bit.”
“So there was probably pressure on Ms. Meng to accept some blame,” he said.
Outside the Vancouver law courts on Friday morning, some reporters crowded around waiting for news of when Meng might show up to deal with his extradition matters after his hearing in New York.
Court staff said they were not yet sure which room the hearing would be in, due to the short notice of the proceedings. Meng May is expected to appear in the afternoon.
It is unclear whether the talks between the United States and Meng’s lawyers mentioned what would happen to the two Michaels.
With files from Jeremy Nuttall and Tonda MacCharles