US charges Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou with fraud

Meng Wanzhou.
Meng Wanzhou. Photo credit: Huawei

US prosecutors want a top executive of China's Huawei to face fraud charges linked to the skirting of sanctions on Iran, a court in the Canadian city of Vancouver has heard.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, 46, who is also the daughter of the company founder, was arrested on December 1 at the request of the US.

The arrest, revealed by Canadian authorities late on Wednesday, was part of a US investigation into an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade American sanctions against Iran, sources say.

Meng arrived in the packed Supreme Court of British Columbia on Friday as dozens of photographers jostled outside the building. She conferred with her two lawyers through a translator.

Canada's Justice Department has declined to provide details of the case but a judge on Friday lifted a publication ban on the evidence or documents presented in court.

Meng faces charges of fraud in the US for allegedly misrepresenting Huawei's relationship with Hong Kong-based Skycom, according to evidence read in court on Friday.

From 2009 to 2014, the court heard, Huawei used Skycom to transact business in Iran despite US and European Union bans.

If extradited, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, the court heard, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge.

The news of Meng's arrest roiled global stock markets on fears the move could escalate a trade war between the US and China after a truce was last week between President Donald Trump and China's leader Xi Jinping.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday that neither Canada nor the US had provided China any evidence that Meng had broken any law in those two countries, and reiterated Beijing's demand that she be released.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters on a conference call that China had been assured by Canada that due process was "absolutely being followed."

Huawei staff briefed on an internal memo told Reuters on Friday the company had appointed chairman Liang Hua as acting CFO following Meng's arrest.

Chinese state media have slammed Meng's detention, accusing the US of trying to "stifle" Huawei and curb its global expansion.

Meanwhile Mr Trump has sounded an optimistic note about trade negotiations with China as two of his top economic and trade advisers downplayed friction from Meng's arrest

"China talks are going very well," Mr Trump said on Twitter on Friday, without providing any details.

Larry Kudlow, director of the White House's National Economic Council, told CNBC he did not believe Meng's arrest would "spill over" into the trade talks with China