More than two years ago, Canadian police acted on a U.S. warrant and arrested Meng Wanzhou while she was changing planes at the Vancouver International Airport.
Since then, the high-profile case involving the Huawei executive’s extradition has caused heightened tensions and strained relations between China and Canada and its allies.
Now that Meng, who is the daughter of the tech giant’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S government, her extradition can be dropped.
But it remains unclear what that means for Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were detained in China just days after Meng’s arrest in what was widely seen as an act of retaliation.
Here’s a timeline of how the saga unfolded:
Aug. 2018: New York judge issues warrant
In August 2018, a judge in the Eastern District of New York issues a warrant for the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou.
U.S. authorities accuse Meng of using a Huawei subsidiary, Skycom, to do business in Iran in violation of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
Authorities allege that Meng misled an HSBC executive during a 2013 meeting about her corporation’s ties to the subsidiary. In court, Meng’s lawyers will later claim that Meng’s presentation was not misleading and that none of her actions had been shown to cause any alleged harm to the bank.
Dec. 1, 2018: Vancouver arrest Meng Wanzhou, the CFO for Chinese telecom giant Huawei, was accused of skirting U.S. sanctions and accessing the Iran market. (Huawei via The Associated Press)
On Dec. 1, 2018, Meng is arrested at the Vancouver International Airport by Canadian police. She was on a stopover from Hong Kong, on a business trip en route to Mexico City, Costa Rica, Argentina and France.
According to the terms of the extradition treaty between Canada and the United States, Canada was legally required to arrest her for extradition to the United States to face charges.
In the days that follow, Huawei issues a statement saying it was not aware of any wrongdoing by Meng. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa urges U.S. and Canadian authorities to free Meng.
China’s foreign ministry issues a warning to Canada that there will be consequences if the Huawei executive is not released immediately.
Dec. 10, 2018: China detains Canadians Michael Kovrig, left, and Michael Spavor, right, were arrested by China in the wake of charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. (The Canadian Press, The Associated Press)
On Dec. 10, former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor are detained on espionage charges in China, nine days after Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada.
As of September 2021, it will be 1,000 days since the two were taken into Chinese custody.
Dec. 11, 2018: Meng is released on bail Meng Wanzhou leaves the B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver on the evening of Dec. 11, 2018.. (CBC)
After days of hearings, Meng walks out of the B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver on the evening of Dec. 11, 2018. She is released on $10 million bail while awaiting possible extradition to the United States on fraud charges.
Meng’s conditions include reporting to a bail supervisor and maintaining good behaviour. She is also forced to surrender her passport and pay for 24/7 surveillance. She is to wear a GPS-monitoring bracelet and stay at a multi-million dollar home she owns on Vancouver’s west side.
Dec. 21, 2018: Canada condemns ‘arbitrary detention’ of Canadians
In a statement, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland calls for China to immediate release Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
“We are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detention by Chinese authorities of two Canadians earlier this month and call for their immediate release,” the statement reads.
China responds, saying Meng’s arrest was illegal.
Tensions between Canada and China mount in the weeks and months that follow. Chinese authorities claim the detentions are not linked to Meng’s arrest.
Meng Wanzhou, out on bail, is accompanied by a private security detail as she leaves her home to attend a court appearance in Vancouver on March 6, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press) Jan. 22, 2019: Canadian ambassador faces criticism
Canada’s Ambassador to China John McCallum finds himself in hot water after he tells Chinese-language media in Markham, Ont. that he thinks Meng has “strong arguments” to make before the courts as her extradition case moves forward.
“I know this has angered China, but we have a system of extradition treaty, a system of rules of law, which are above the government,” the ambassador said at the time. “The government cannot change these things, and as I said, I think Ms. Meng has quite a strong case.”
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer responds, saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should fire McCallum.
Jan. 26, 2019: McCallum is out Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum handed in his resignation after he told a reporter that it would be “great for Canada” if the United States dropped their extradition request against the Huawei executive. (The Canadian Press)
After facing criticism and calls for his resignation, McCallum says he regrets those comments. The following day, he tells a StarMetro Vancouver reporter that it would be “great for Canada” if the United States dropped their extradition request against the Huawei executive.
On Jan. 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces he has accepted McCallum’s resignation as Canada’s ambassador to China.
Jan. 28, 2019: U.S. issues extradition request
In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice formally announces 13 criminal charges against the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, its CFO Meng Wanzhou and its affiliates in the U.S. and Hong Kong.
Canada’s Department of Justice confirms that officials have received a formal extradition request from the U.S.
Meng is facing charges of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
May 27, 2020: Meng Wanzhou loses court battle Extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou went ahead after a B.C. Supreme Court judge determined the offence would be considered a crime if it occurred in Canada. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
A B.C. Supreme Court judge rules that extradition proceedings against Meng should go ahead because the offence Meng is accused of by U.S. prosecutors would be considered a crime if it occurred in Canada.
Just days before, the Huawei executive had appeared to take a premature victory lap, posing for pictures in a staged downtown Vancouver photo shoot where she flashed a thumbs-up on the steps of B.C. Supreme Court.
Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou poses with friends and family on the steps of the B.C. Supreme Court building in downtown Vancouver days before a judge rules on her extradition case. (Ben Nelms/CBC) March 21, 2021: Kovrig trial held in private
The two Canadian detainees, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, continue to be held in China.
Kovrig’s trial, during which he faces charges for spying on state secrets and providing intelligence outside the country, wraps up on March 21, 2021 in a closed Beijing courtroom.
A spokesperson for the embassy of Canada in China says they were denied access to the hearing. The verdict is expected to be announced at an unspecified later date.
The court says Kovrig’s trial was held in private because the case involves state secrets.
Aug. 10, 2021: Spavor sentenced
Despite repeated calls from Ottawa to release Spavor and Kovrig, a Chinese court finds Spavor guilty of espionage and sentences him to 11 years in prison.
Canada maintains that the two men were arbitrarily detained and calls on China to grant clemency.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau refers to the proceedings as a “mock sham trial” with no transparency.
Aug. 11, 2021: Meng’s extradition hearing begins Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home for the final day of her extradition hearing in Vancouver on Aug. 18. The judge has reserved a decision until the fall. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
On. Aug. 11, the formal hearing on the merits of the U.S. extradition request — the final phase of two-and-a-half years of legal battles and diplomatic tensions — gets underway before B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.
Robert Frater, the lawyer representing Canada’s attorney general, argues that Meng falsely tried to distance Huawei from Skycom when “the truth was that Huawei was in full control of Skycom.”
Meng denies the charges against her and her defence team argues there is no evidence that she intended to deceive HSBC.
Meng’s lawyer, Eric Gottardi, says the Crown’s case was “fatally flawed” and argues there is no evidence Meng deceived the bank, nor that HSBC suffered any loss as a result of Meng’s actions.
Aug. 18, 2021: Judge adjourns proceedings to render decision
With legal arguments for the extradition case concluded, Chief Justice Holmes adjourns proceedings on Aug. 18 and says she doesn’t expect to have a decision for months.
The next court date is set for Oct. 21 but Holmes says does not expect to have a verdict ready at that point — only a better idea of when one would be delivered.
Huawei Canada tweets that the company “has been confident in Ms. Meng’s innocence” from the start.
Sep 24, 2021: Deferred prosecution agreement
Meng Wanzhou reaches a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S government, resolving the U.S. fraud charges against her.
The agreement clears the way for Canada to drop its extradition proceedings. As part of that arrangement, Meng pleads not guilty during a virtual appearance in a New York courtroom.
In a media statement issued later in the evening, the federal Department of Justice confirms that the extradition effort has ended and “Meng Wanzhou is free to leave Canada.”
“Canada is a rule of law country,” says the statement. “Meng Wanzhou was afforded a fair process before the courts in accordance with Canadian law. This speaks to the independence of Canada’s judicial system.”
Observers are watching to see what kind of an impact, if any, the latest development will have on talks about returning the two detainees home to Canada.