Meng Wanzhou convinced HSBC that Iran dealings were ‘above board’, but she was ‘deceitful’, says Canadian filing

Robert Delaney
·3-min read

An HSBC banker concluded that Huawei’s business dealings in Iran were “above board” after a meeting with company CFO Meng Wanzhou, whose representations turned out to be “deceitful” and put the bank at risk, a Canadian government lawyer said in court submissions released on Friday.

The revelation will be included in evidence to be presented by Canadian lawyers on behalf of the US government that Meng – whose extradition case began in the British Columbia Supreme Court in January – deceived Huawei creditor HSBC.

“Everything appears to be above board,” the senior HSBC employee said in an email to other high-ranking personnel, who were weighing whether to retain Huawei as a client after reports in 2012 and 2013 that it controlled an Iranian firm that was allegedly violating US sanctions against Iran at the time.

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“Huawei [has stated that it] complies with all laws and sanctions … I am pretty much reassured,” the banker said, according to the court documents.

As well as testimony from former and current Huawei staff in Iran and HSBC employees, the lawyers are relying on claims made by FBI agents who have investigated Huawei’s relationship with an Iranian firm that sold US products to an Iranian-government-owned telecommunications equipment maker.

The lawyers will argue that HSBC relied on fraudulent assurances by Meng that Huawei had severed its relationship with Iranian supplier Skycom in 2009.

US sanctions against Iran prohibit the sale of US products to any government-controlled entity in the country.

Those allegedly fraudulent assurances convinced HSBC to retain Huawei as a client at a time when the telecoms giant was depending on the bank to coordinate a US$1.5 billion loan.

The submission said witnesses that would testify against Meng include a former Huawei employee in Tehran, who said that they were told in 2013 – after receiving an employment verification letter on Skycom letterhead – that “in Iran, Huawei is Skycom”.

Meng Wanzhou extradition case set to continue until 2021

An FBI special agent was also cited in the submission, claiming that HSBC documents and email records demonstrate that Huawei controlled Skycom’s bank accounts, even after Huawei sold its stake in the company and Meng vacated her seat on its board.

“Ms Meng’s deceitful representations to HSBC about Huawei and Skycom thwarted HSBC’s efforts to eliminate its risk exposure, putting HSBC’s economic interests at risk,” Heather Graham, counsel for the attorney general of Canada, said in her submission.

Meng is under partial house arrest in Vancouver. Her legal team has used several strategies attempting to convince the court to end the extradition effort, accusing US President Donald Trump of having “poisoned” the case for political purposes and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of complicity in using Meng as a “bargaining chip”.

Her case is expected to last well into next year, but appeals could extend the process even more.

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