Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou has returned to China after reaching a deal with the US Justice Department, following three years under detention in Canada.
Two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, who were arrested soon after Meng, were also released and flew back to the city of Calgary, where they were met by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
“It is good news for all of us that they are on their way home to their families,” Trudeau said.
The arrests of Kovrig and Spavor were widely seen in Canada as a retaliatory action. China had denied the cases were connected.
Meng, who has been under house arrest in Vancouver, British Columbia since her arrest in December 2018, agreed on Friday to a deferred prosecution agreement.
That afternoon she boarded an Air China flight bound for Shenzhen, arriving a couple of hours after Kovrig and Spavor, where she was greeted by crowds shouting “Welcome home Wanzhou!”
“My life has been turned upside down. It was a disruptive time for me,” Meng told journalists after being freed from Canadian detention.
“I will never forget all the good wishes I received from people around the world,” she added. “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
The deal with US federal prosecutors allowed her to formally deny guilt for key charges while also admitting to having misled investigators.
In return, the US is to defer and then ultimately drop the charges at the end of next year.
The US also withdrew its extradition request to the Canadian authorities, clearing the way for her to leave the country.
Meng’s arrest and subsequent legal battle over her extradition to the United States became one of the most dramatic elements of an ongoing trade war between the US and China, and drew Canada into the conflict.
The daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, Meng, who takes her family name from her mother, is considered a top contender to succeed him in leading the company.
The US charged her with misleading HSBC Holdings as part of a plan to circumvent US economic sanctions on Iran.
As part of the deferred prosecution deal she agreed to a “statement of facts” that includes the admission that she knowingly made false statements to HSBC.
The US Department of Justice said Meng had “taken responsibility for her principal role in perpetrating a scheme to defraud a global financial institution” and added that it is continuing to prepare for trial against Huawei.
Meng has previously denied wrongdoing and in extradition hearings her lawyers argued the case was a politicised “power grab” by the US.
In 2019 the US placed Meng’s company Huawei on a trade blacklist, which along with other measures has forced the company to give up much of its overseas business and to sell off part of its once-flourishing smartphone unit.
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