Huawei to seek UK court order to access HSBC records in bid to clear CFO

Huawei’s battle to prevent the extradition of its chief financial officer from Canada to the US will open a new front at the British high court on Friday when the Chinese telecoms giant seeks an application to access records from inside HSBC in a bid to prove that she did not mislead the bank.

The future of Meng Wanzhou has become a major three-way point of diplomatic and legal tension between China, Canada and the US since she was arrested at Vancouver airport in December 2018.

The US is seeking her extradition on charges of violating US sanctions when a company controlled by Huawei sold telecoms equipment to Iran.

The US claims Meng did not tell the truth to HSBC about Huawei’s true links to Skycom, a firm that was active in Iran and allegedly a shell company for Huawei.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, is alleged to have told HSBC senior executives in a PowerPoint presentation in August 2013 that Skycom was a simple partner and not a subsidiary. She held the meeting in Hong Kong with HSBC’s Asia-Pacific director of global banking, Alan Thomas.

Her detention has severely strained relations between Canada and China, which has been accused of “hostage diplomacy” for the detention of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, soon after Meng’s arrest.

At the high court in London, Huawei will on Friday seek an order under the Bankers Book Evidence Act to access what they regard as relevant information kept in HSBC’s books. Under this act, a party can seek a court order to gain access to, inspect and copy documentation such as ledgers, cashbooks and accounts books.

Meng’s lawyers have claimed the presentation to HSBC has been edited in a bid to make it look as though she misrepresented the relationship between Huawei and Skycom.

The request for a court order, Huawei says, is to understand who in HSBC had knowledge of the meeting in Hong Kong, the contents discussed during that meeting, and how widely the outcome of the meeting circulated within the bank.

The meeting had been requested by the bank after Reuters news agency published a series of stories in the spring of 2013 alleging that the links between Skycom and Huawei were closer than the Chinese firm had acknowledged.

Huawei also wants to know the reasons HSBC maintained its relationship with the Chinese firm after the publication of the Reuters articles and why it cleared Skycom transactions through the US banking system. The UK case appears to be part of Huawei’s efforts to make the question of Meng’s future an ever larger diplomatic headache.

Meng is due to appear in a Vancouver court on 1 March for the last stage of her extradition hearings, which are scheduled to finish in May at the earliest. Her lawyers have attempted various arguments to get her extradition stopped, including claiming that her actions did not represent an offence in Canada, and that the nature of her investigation at the airport by Canada border officials amounted to a cross-examination.