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Judge won't relax Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou's bail conditions due to flight risk

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge refused to ease Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's bail conditions Friday, saying the current restrictions are the minimum required to ensure she does not flee Canada.

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge refused to ease Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's bail conditions Friday, saying the current restrictions are the minimum required to ensure she does not flee Canada.

Justice William Ehrcke dismissed Meng's application for changes to her bail conditions, which would have allowed her to leave her Vancouver home outside the hours of her overnight curfew without the presence of security.

Meng's husband testified earlier this month that she has underlying health conditions and he believes his wife is at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 because of her proximity to her private security detail whenever she leaves.

However, unlike people incarcerated in close quarters, Ehrcke said Meng may self-isolate at home if she chooses, except when required in court.

"While at her residence, the current bail conditions do not pose any increased risk from COVID-19," he said.

Meng doesn't live a great distance from the Vancouver courthouse, he added, and members of her security team have been required to wear masks since Nov. 19, after B.C. updated its ongoing public health rules.

In the event she must attend court, Ehrcke said, "I am satisfied that the current arrangement of being transported by Lions Gate personnel who are wearing masks does not pose an unacceptable health risk."

Ehrcke said he had not seen any evidence about Meng's current health or why she is more at risk of COVID-19 than any other 48-year-old.

"I have not been given details about her hypertension or her operation for thyroid cancer, which she underwent some 10 years ago in 2011."

Meng, a Chinese citizen, is wanted in the United States on fraud charges based on allegations both she and the company deny. She is fighting the extradition and her lawyers argue she has been subjected to an abuse of process and should be freed.

She was arrested at Vancouver's airport on the American warrant on Dec. 1, 2018, and the judge released her on $10-million bail days later.

In his oral ruling delivered Friday, Ehrcke said the current bail conditions are "substantially the same as the conditions that Ms. Meng's own counsel recommended to the court in December 2018."

The conditions included requirements that Meng stay inside one of her two Vancouver homes overnight, remain in a defined geographical area during the day and wear a GPS monitoring device at all times. Meng also agreed to 24-7 surveillance and supervision by a security company.

Meng's husband, Liu Xiaozong, told the court the presence of security staff has made it difficult for his family to spend time outside together.

Liu testified they used to go to the grocery store, shopping malls and playgrounds with their children, who are afraid of being identified by the public because of the close proximity of the security detail. 

But Ehrcke said during his ruling that the president of the security company tasked with supervising Meng testified that she still faces potential risks to her safety and the possibility that someone may try to "extract" her from Canada.

Douglas Maynard, president of Lions Gate Risk Management Group, told the court Meng has generally been complying with her bail conditions and acknowledged under cross-examination that the bail variation she sought could have resulted in a significant loss of revenue to the company. 

Ehrcke said it's significant that Meng's team did not present any evidence from Lions Gate CEO Scot Filer, who is one of the sureties for her bail.

"When I questioned counsel about this, I was told that Mr. Filer was not willing to say that he supports the current application for a bail variation." 

The judge said he remains of the view that Meng's bail conditions are the minimum necessary to ensure she does not flee Canada. She has significant financial resources at her disposal and faces charges that could ultimately result in her incarceration in the United States if she's convicted, he noted.

"The current bail conditions were carefully crafted in an attempt to mitigate the risk of flight by Ms. Meng," Ehrcke said. "An integral component was the supervision and surveillance of Ms. Meng by Lions Gate personnel when she is away from her residence."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Laura Kane and Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

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