These are the Canadians who paid millions in bail for Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou, putting homes and retirement savings on the line
- The Vancouver residents who paid US$2.2 million towards Meng’s bail include two ex-employees of Huawei, another’s wife, a property agent and a yoga instructor
- They sealed the release of Meng, whose husband alone was an inadequate guarantor and posed a flight risk himself, according to the Canadian government’s lawyer
They include a property agent, a mansion-owning homemaker and a part-time yoga-instructor – a veritable casting call of modern Vancouver.
The other thing they have in common is Huawei Technologies CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou.
These are the Canadians who have put their homes and retirement savings on the line by paying millions in bail for Meng, certain in their belief that she will not betray them by fleeing Vancouver, where she is awaiting extradition proceedings to face charges of fraud in the United States.
Their pledges of surety – and friendship – to Meng are contained in affidavits, obtained by the South China Morning Post, that were provided to the court as part of the intense effort to get her released on bail.
It was only through the intervention of Meng’s Vancouver-area friends that a key part of the argument to keep her behind bars was thwarted – the contention that Meng’s husband alone could not be trusted to provide bail and surety, because if she fled, he likely would too.
“Because their ordinary lives are in China … it is inconceivable to me that if she were to go [and flee], that he wouldn’t go with her,” said John Gibb-Carsley, the lawyer for Canada’s attorney general acting on behalf of the United States, at the BC Supreme Court bail hearing on December 11.
But what was inconceivable to Meng’s friends, according to the affidavits – redacted by the court to exclude the names and specific identifying details – was that she would disappoint their trust.
In total, four sets of friends (including one couple, for a total of five people) agreed to pledge a total of C$3 million (US$2.2 million) in cash and home equity to secure Meng’s release on December 11. Her husband, Liu Xiaozong, pledged a further C$7 million (US$5.2 million) in cash.
The yoga instructor had turned up to court that day, and was sitting in the public gallery with a cheque for C$50,000 (US$37,000).
“I first met Ms Meng in Shenzhen, China, about 23 years ago and Ms Meng’s husband, Xiaozong Liu (Carlos) in 2009. Since they live in my neighbourhood when the family lives here in the summer, I have spent a lot of quality time with them and so have gotten to know them very well,” the woman wrote in her affidavit.
She had also become close friends with Liu’s elderly parents, who spent four to six months of the year living in Meng and Liu’s home on West 28th Avenue – where Meng herself is now living under guard. She had even travelled to Alaska on holidays with Liu’s parents.
“I have come to know and trust Ms Meng and believe she is a person of integrity and good character. I know Ms Meng as an honest person, so I am confident she will not breach any conditions imposed on her,” the woman wrote.
“The impact to me and my family of the loss of $50,000 would be very big,” she added. “This money was set aside as part of my retirement savings, and this money would not be easily replenished.”
She and Meng’s other sureties pledged to ensure that Meng would comply with the terms of her bail, which include that she remain within a fixed area of metro Vancouver and comply with a nightly curfew.
The yoga instructor is the only one of the surety providers who did not have a previous employment or apparent business connection to Meng, directly or by marriage. Two had previously worked for Huawei in China, the homemaker’s husband had also done so, while the other sold Meng and Liu both of their homes in Vancouver, now worth a total of about C$22 million (US$16.3 million).
The property agent pledged his own C$1.8 million (US$1.3 million) Burnaby home (subject to a C$200,000 mortgage) to Meng’s bail. “I understand that as a surety my duty is to the court. I also understand that should Wanzhou Meng violate her bail conditions, I might lose my home,” he wrote.
A Canadian citizen who emigrated here in 1968, the agent said that he now met the couple every year and considered them “good friends”. He also held the keys for the two homes. “When Carlos [Liu] and Sabrina are away from Canada, I sometimes help them with certain tasks around their properties … they trust me to diligently manage their properties.”
A further C$850,000 (US$630,000) was pledged by the homemaker who said her husband worked for Huawei for nine years. “He knew Ms Meng well and Ms Meng had treated him very well,” wrote the woman, who moved to Canada in 2009.
The woman’s contribution to the bail represents 30 per cent of the equity in her new C$6.1 million (US$4.5 million) Vancouver home, based on a private valuation dated a day before Meng’s release. (For the real-estate minded, that price is 11.4 per cent below the official 2018 BC Assessment valuation of C$6.8 million.)
According to redacted title documents, the 5,537-square-foot home was only built on the double-sized 9,750-square-foot lot in 2015 or 2016. “I do not believe that [Meng] would jeopardise my property by breaching her conditions,” the homemaker wrote.
Last among the sureties were a couple who pledged C$500,000 in equity in their C$1.4 million Surrey house. That represents three-quarters of the equity value in the home, which carries a C$770,000 mortgage.
“Should Wanzhou Meng violate her bail conditions, we might lose $500,000 net equity value of our home, which will impact our family’s life significantly,” the couple swore in their affidavit.
The couple, who immigrated to Canada in 1999, said they had “known Ms Meng since the mid-1990s, when both of us worked at Huawei Technologies Inc”.
“My time at Huawei was an excellent experience for me, and one of the most meaningful life experiences for our family,” said one.
“I appreciated the training and knowledge I acquired at Huawei. During my time at Huawei, I got to know Ms Meng at a more personal level when we both travelled to Moscow in 1997 on a Huawei business trip.
“Given my positive experience at Huawei and my friendship with Ms Meng, we are prepared and willing to act as Ms Meng’s sureties.”
They had “complete confidence” that Meng would follow the terms of her bail.
The bonds of friendship notwithstanding, Meng’s compliance is also being enforced by other guarantors – namely, a GPS tracking bracelet on her ankle, and guards from Lions Gate Risk Management, a private security outfit whose bills she must pay and who are pledged to take Meng into custody should she try to escape.
Meng’s lawyer at the bail hearing, David J. Martin, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.