An executive for Chinese tech giant Huawei, facing extradition to the United States on fraud charges, on Tuesday asked a Canadian court to ease her bail conditions, citing Covid-19 fears.
On the stand, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou’s husband Liu Xiaozong testified that Meng is fearful of catching Covid-19 from her security guards, which were ordered by a judge for the duration of her extradition fight.
He said she may be “at increased risk from Covid-19” because of her hypertension and past thyroid cancer surgery.
Since the start of the outbreak, he said, “I would usually observe three (guards) accompanying my wife in their vehicle… and (it) could be three different people from one day to the next.”
But government lawyers questioned Meng’s sincerity, revealing to the court that she’d gone out on several recent group excursions including to a restaurant with 14 people on Christmas Day — in apparent violation of public health rules aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
She had also posed for a group photo — in which nobody wore face masks — on the steps of the Vancouver courthouse in May 2020 in anticipation that she might soon be freed. The court heard that Beijing had a jetliner on standby to whisk her back to China.
The businesswoman — whose father is Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei — has been in a two-year battle against extradition over charges Huawei violated US sanctions on Iran.
She has denied charges that she hid Huawei’s relationship with former subsidiary Skycom in Iran from HSBC bank.
Her arrest on a US warrant during a Vancouver stopover in December 2018 — and Beijing’s detention nine days later of two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor — caused a major diplomatic rift between Canada and China.
Soon after her arrest, Meng was released on bail conditions including a curfew in one of her two Vancouver mansions, that she wear a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet, and daytime supervision by private security guards.
She is now asking, defense lawyer Bill Smart told the court, to be allowed “to leave her residence in non-curfew hours without being accompanied by (guards).”
Kovrig and Spavor, meanwhile, have been languishing in China’s opaque legal system since their arrest. Consular visits were only restored in October after being suspended in January 2020.