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Huawei CFO seeks bail on health concerns; Canada wants her in jail

By Anna Mehler Paperny and Ben Blanchard

TORONTO/BEIJING (Reuters) - The CFO of China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] argued that she should be released on bail while awaiting an extradition hearing, citing her longstanding ties to Canada, properties she owns in Vancouver and fears for her health while incarcerated, court documents showed on Sunday.

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is fighting to be released on bail after she was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver at the request of the United States. She is also fighting the extradition request, and China has protested her arrest to U.S. and Canadian officials.

Meng, 46, faces U.S. accusations that she misled multinational banks about Huawei's control of a company operating in Iran. This deception put the banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions and incurring severe penalties, according to court documents seen by Reuters. U.S. officials allege that Huawei was trying to use the banks to move money out of Iran.

China has demanded her immediate release. The arrest has roiled global markets as investors worried it could torpedo attempts to thaw trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

U.S. stock futures fell 0.71 percent in early Asia trading, extending their negative tone from Friday.

In a sworn affidavit, Meng, the daughter of Huawei's founder, said she is innocent and will contest the allegations at trial in the United States if she is surrendered there.

Meng said she was taken to a hospital for treatment for hypertension after being detained. She cited hypertension in a bail application seeking her release pending an extradition hearing. She also noted that she owns two homes in Vancouver worth millions of dollars each.

BACK IN THE COURT

Her family assured the court she would remain in Vancouver if she was granted bail, according to the court documents. Her husband said he plans to bring the couple's daughter to Vancouver to attend school during the proceedings. Meng will be back in the court for a bail hearing on Monday.

Huawei, the world's biggest supplier of telecoms network equipment and second biggest smartphone seller, did not offer an immediate comment on the court documents. The company, a market leader across many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, previously said it has complied with all applicable rules.

Earlier on Sunday, China's foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador to lodge a "strong protest" over the arrest, and said the United States should withdraw its arrest warrant.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told U.S. ambassador Terry Branstad the United States had made an "unreasonable demand" on Canada to detain Meng while she was passing through Vancouver, China's Foreign Ministry said.

"The actions of the U.S. seriously violated the lawful and legitimate rights of the Chinese citizen, and by their nature were extremely nasty," Le told Branstad.

China urged the United States to withdraw the arrest warrant, Le added. "China will respond further depending on U.S. actions," he said, without elaborating.

On Saturday, Le warned the Canadian ambassador there would be severe consequences if it did not immediately release Meng. There was no immediate reaction from Canada. On Friday, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters Canada's relationship with China was important, and the country's ambassador in Beijing has assured the Chinese consular access will be provided to Meng.

THE CASE

The United States has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei shipped U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws, Reuters reported in April.

The U.S. case against Meng involves Skycom Tech Co. Ltd, which Huawei has described as one of its "major local partners” in Iran. Huawei used Skycom’s Tehran office to provide mobile network equipment to several major telecommunications companies in Iran, people familiar with the company’s operations have told Reuters.

In December 2012, Reuters reported that documents showed Skycom had tried to sell embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment in 2010 to Iran's largest mobile-phone operator. Reuters later reported that Skycom had much closer ties to Huawei and Meng than previously known.

In Canadian court papers made public on Friday, an investigation by U.S. authorities found Huawei operated Skycom as an "unofficial subsidiary" to conduct business in Iran.

Huawei said its Iran operations were "in strict compliance with applicable laws, regulations and sanctions" of the United Nations, United States and European Union, according to Canadian court documents released on Sunday.

U.S. officials allege that Meng and other Huawei representatives misled financial institutions about Huawei's control of Skycom, so the Chinese company could gain access to the international banking system. As a result, an unidentified financial institution cleared more than $100 million worth of transactions related to Skycom through the U.S. between 2010 and 2014, the court papers said.

On Thursday, Reuters identified HSBC Holdings Plc as one of the banks involved in the Meng case and, citing sources, reported that the probe included possible bank fraud.

Companies are barred from using the U.S. financial system to funnel goods and services to sanctioned entities.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said on Sunday he would "100 percent absolutely" introduce a measure in the new Congress that would ban Chinese telecom companies from doing business in the United States.

"We have to understand Chinese companies are not like American companies. OK. We can't even get Apple to crack an iPhone for us in a terrorist investigation," he told CBS "Face the Nation."

"When the Chinese ask a telecom company, we want you to turn over all the data you've gathered in the country you're operating in, they will do it. No court order. Nothing like that. They will just do it. They have to. We need to understand that."

Rubio was a strong critic of China's ZTE Corp, which pleaded guilty in 2017 to violating U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Anna Mehler Paperny; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver, Nick Brown in New York, and Doina Chiacu, Chris Sanders and Karen Freifeld in Washington and Steve Stecklow in London; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)