‘We didn’t know!’: Trump and Trudeau race to distance themselves from the arrest of Huawei heiress in Canada over fears of a backlash in Chinese trade
- Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau distanced themselves from claims they knew Meng Wanzhou was going to be arrested in Canada on Saturday
- A White House official said Trump did not know about a US request for her extradition as he had signed a trade agreement with China on the same day
- Huawei is one of the largest telecom technology companies in the world
- Meng faces extradition to the US over alleged violations of American sanctions against Iran
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou (above) was arrested Saturday in Vancouver, where she is facing extradition to the US on suspicion that she violated US sanctions against Iran
Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau claimed they were unaware of plans to arrest a top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in Canada.
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the 46-year-old daughter of the company’s founder, was detained in Canada on December 1.
The leaders moved to distance themselves they had any knowledge of the arrest amid fears it could harm trade agreements with China.
It came on the same day Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping dined together at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Meng faces extradition to the US over alleged violations of American sanctions against Iran, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging more than 700 points on Thursday morning.
A White House official told Reuters Trump did not know about a US request for her extradition from Canada before he met Xi and agreed to a 90-day truce in the brewing trade war.
Meanwhile Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said officers who arrested her Saturday as she was changing planes in Vancouver had acted on their own.
‘I can assure everyone that we are a country (with) an independent judiciary,’ Trudeau told a tech conference in Montreal.
Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau claimed they were unaware of plans to arrest a top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in Canada
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‘And they took this decision without any political involvement or interference’.
Citing a court-ordered publication ban sought by Meng, Trudeau declined to comment further on the case, which according to a US senator was brought over Huawei’s activities in Iran.
The arrest was made at Washington’s request as part of a US investigation of an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade US sanctions against Iran, according to people familiar with the probe.
Meng is the daughter of billionaire company founder Ren Zhengfei, a former Chinese People’s Liberation Army engineer.
Another U.S. official told Reuters that while it was a Justice Department matter and not orchestrated in advance by the White House, the case could send a message that Washington is serious about what it sees as Beijing’s violations of international trade norms.
Meng faces extradition to the US over alleged violations of American sanctions against Iran
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the arrest could complicate efforts to reach a broader U.S.-China trade deal but would not necessarily damage the process.
Meng’s detention also raised concerns about potential retaliation from Beijing in Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to distance himself from the arrest.
‘The appropriate authorities took the decisions in this case without any political involvement or interference … we were advised by them with a few days’ notice that this was in the works,’ Trudeau told reporters in Montreal in televised remarks.
Markets were chaotic over news of the arrest. On Wall Street, the broad-based S&P Index closed down 0.31 percent after making up steep early losses.
‘The concept of getting a quick resolution is fading,” Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR, said of the trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping dined together at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires
President Trump (far right) and President XI (far left) agreed to call a truce in their long-running trade dispute at the G20 on Saturday, the same day that Meng was arrested
China said that Meng — the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army — had violated no laws in either Canada or the United States.
‘We have made solemn representations to Canada and the US, demanding that both parties immediately clarify the reasons for the detention, and immediately release the detainee to protect the person’s legal rights,’ Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in Beijing.
Huawei also said in a statement that it was compliant with ‘all applicable laws and regulations where it operates’.
Huawei’s affordable smartphones have made strong inroads in the developing world, but the company has faced repeated setbacks in major Western economies over security concerns.
The United States has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, Reuters reported in April.
More recently, the probe has included the company’s use of HSBC Holdings Plc to make illegal transactions involving Iran, people familiar with the investigation said.
In 2012, HSBC paid $1.92 billion and entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn for violating U.S. sanctions and money-laundering laws.
Meng, who is one of the vice chairs on the Chinese technology company’s board and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei (above), was arrested on Dec. 1 and a court hearing has been set for Friday
An HSBC spokesperson declined to comment on Thursday. HSBC is not under investigation, according to a person familiar with the matter.
After news of the arrest, Huawei said it has been provided little information of the charges against Meng, adding that it was ‘not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms. Meng’.
Huawei is under intense scrutiny from Washington and other governments over its ties to the Chinese government, driven by concerns it could be used for spying.
It has been locked out of US and some other markets for telecom gear, but has repeatedly insisted Beijing has no influence over it.
Huawei is one of the world’s largest makers of smartphones and telecommunications network equipment, and has been labeled a national security threat by US officials.
They have urged allies who host American military bases to ban the use of Huawei products in their communications infrastructure.
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