A Chinese tech executive who was detained in Canada on US fraud charges has been released after years of diplomatic tensions over her fate.
Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, was detained in December 2018 at the request of the United States.
But an agreement reached with the US Department of Justice saw her extradition request dropped on Friday.
The case has angered China and strained relations with the United States and Canada.
It also raised accusations that China detained Canadian citizens in retaliation, which China denied.
“My life was turned upside down,” Meng told reporters after being released from house arrest in Canada. “It was a period of turmoil for me.”
“Every cloud has its positive side,” she continued, adding, “I will never forget all the good wishes I’ve received from people all over the world.”
Details of a possible deal to release Meng have been the subject of intense negotiations between US and Chinese diplomats.
The US alleged that Meng misled HSBC about the true nature of Huawei’s relationship with a company called Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Iran.
On Friday, the US Department of Justice said it had reached an agreement to delay the prosecution.
This means that the Department of Justice will refrain from prosecuting Meng until December 2022. If he complies with the conditions set by the court, the case will eventually be dropped.
The agreement, which recommended her release, allowed her to formally deny the charges against her while also acknowledging the allegations made by the Americans.
Later on Friday, Canadian prosecutors told a Vancouver court that they had halted efforts to extradite her to the United States and that she should be released from custody.
For three years, Meng was under house arrest in her multi-million dollar Vancouver home.
Prior to her court appearance, Meng was seen entering the building accompanied by Chinese consular officials.
The judge later ordered her release.
A person familiar with the matter told the BBC she could return to China by Saturday.
As part of the deal, Meng agreed to a “statement of facts” in which she admits she knowingly made false statements to HSBC.
The Justice Department said Meng “has assumed responsibility for her primary role in carrying out a scheme to defraud an international financial institution.”
Meng is the eldest daughter of billionaire Ren Changfei, who founded Huawei in 1987. The company is now the world’s largest maker of communications equipment.
Her father served in the Chinese army for nine years until 1983, and is also a member of the Chinese Communist Party.
Huawei has faced accusations that its devices may be used by Chinese authorities to spy, allegations Beijing has denied.
In 2019, the United States imposed sanctions on Huawei and placed it on an export blacklist, cutting it off from major technology companies.
The United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia and Japan also banned Huawei, while other countries including France and India adopted measures that did not amount to a complete ban.
A few days after Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on suspicion of espionage.
Critics have accused China of treating them as political bargaining chips, as part of what is known as “hostage diplomacy”. But China denies this.
Last month, a Chinese court convicted businessman Michael Spavor of espionage and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.
Canada condemned the ruling, saying that his trial did not meet even the minimum standards required by international law.
Analysis by Gordon Correra – Security Editor
For months, there have been intense behind-the-scenes contacts, with senior Huawei executives sent to Washington by the company to try to resolve an issue that has fueled international tension.
For the head of Huawei, the case was very personal, with his daughter being detained, but for the whole of China, it has also turned into a major cause of anger. It also soured relations between China and Canada, with the latter believing that two of its citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, had been held as pawns in the negotiations.
The agreement could reduce some of the tensions that have emerged. But there will still be questions such as: What does the United States gain from it? And what kind of connection might there be between events in North America and the case of Kovrig and Spavor in China?
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