The Canadian government has decided to allow the U.S. extradition process of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to proceed, the country's Department of Justice announced Friday.
It's the first step in what's likely to be a lengthy and revealing legal process. Meng will sit for an extradition hearing in Canada on March 6, during which evidence will be entered into the public record.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Vancouver, British Columbia, in December over allegations that the company defrauded several banks, including HSBC and Standard Chartered, by concealing payments from Iran in violations of sanctions against that country.
The process to extradite Meng extends a saga that has captivated markets and fueled tensions between the U.S. and China.
"Canada is a country governed by the rule of law. Extradition in Canada is guided by the Extradition Act, international treaties and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines constitutional principles of fairness and due process," the Canadian agency said in a statement. "Today, Department of Justice Canada officials issued an Authority to Proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou."
Meng will remain under house arrest during the extradition proceedings, as a stipulation of her bail. She must also continue to wear a GPS tracking device and be accompanied by a security detail whenever she leaves her residence.
"We are disappointed that the Minister of Justice has decided to issue an Authority to Proceed in the face of the political nature of the U.S. charges and where the President of the United States has repeatedly stated that he would interfere in Ms. Meng's case if he thought it would assist the U.S negotiations with China over a trade deal," a spokesperson for Meng's defense team said in a statement to CNBC.
Huawei is one of China's biggest companies, and U.S. officials have been accusing the hardware giant — which recently surpassed Apple in number of mobile phones shipped — of a wide range of sanctions violations, cybercrimes and intellectual property theft for the better part of a decade.
"Our client maintains that she is innocent of any wrongdoing and that the U.S. prosecution and extradition constitutes an abuse of the processes of law," Meng's defense spokesperson said.
Here's the government's announcement:
March 1, 2019 – Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Department of Justice
Canada is a country governed by the rule of law. Extradition in Canada is guided by the Extradition Act, international treaties and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines constitutional principles of fairness and due process.
Today, Department of Justice Canada officials issued an Authority to Proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou.
The decision follows a thorough and diligent review of the evidence in this case. The Department is satisfied that the requirements set out by the Extradition Act for the issuance of an Authority to Proceed have been met and there is sufficient evidence to be put before an extradition judge for decision.
The next step in the case is as follows:
The British Columbia Supreme Court has scheduled an appearance date for March 6, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. (PST) to confirm that an Authority to Proceed has been issued and to schedule the date for the extradition hearing.
During the extradition hearing, the Crown will make its detailed arguments in its submissions to the Court, where evidence will be filed and become part of the public record.
An extradition hearing is not a trial nor does it render a verdict of guilt or innocence. If a person is ultimately extradited from Canada to face prosecution in another country, the individual will have a trial in that country.
While court proceedings are underway, Ms. Meng will remain on bail subject to her existing conditions, as set by the court.
— The Authority to Proceed is the first step in the extradition process. The decision on whether to issue an Authority to Proceed was made by Department of Justice Canada officials, who are part of a non-partisan public service.
— The next step is the judicial phase where a judge hears the case. If the judge decides a person should be committed for extradition, then the Minister of Justice must decide if the person should be surrendered (extradited) to the requesting country.
— The Minister of Justice will not comment on the facts of this case given he may need to make a decision later in this process.
— Under the Extradition Act and the Treaty, Canada must review the alleged conduct and determine whether it could have resulted in a jail sentence of 1 year of more if it had taken place in Canada. The conduct for which extradition is sought must also be considered criminal in both the United States of America and in Canada. This is known as "dual criminality".
— Canada's extradition process protects the rights of the person sought by ensuring that extradition will not be granted if, among other things, it is contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the principles of fundamental justice.
— CNBC's Kate Fazzini contributed to this report.