US-based Citigroup and French international banking group BNP Paribas are caught up in the US criminal investigation case against the chief financial officer of China’s Huawei Technologies, according to new documents released on Tuesday.
The banks were revealed after a hearing in British Columbia Supreme Court where Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is battling extradition to the US on bank fraud charges.
The two are among at least four financial organizations that had banking relationships with the Chinese multinational technology company when Meng, among others, misled them about its business affairs in Iran despite US sanctions. HSBC Holdings and Standard Chartered have also been previously mentioned.
These financial institutions are considered victims in the 13-count indictment the United States brought against Meng and Huawei, which involves charges of bank and wire fraud, defying sanctions against Iran and obstructing justice.
Both Meng and the organization have denied wrongdoing.
Officials of the four banks did not instantly respond to emails from Reuters seeking comment, however, Citigroup, Standard Chartered and BNP Paribas have previously refused to comment when asked by Reuters about their possible involvement in the Huawei case.
The court allowed the materials, including the footage of Meng’s arrest, to be made public in advance of a hearing scheduled to start September 23, 2019 in Vancouver.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December on a US warrant and her lawyers claim she was unlawfully detained.
They say Canadian authorities held-up her arrest to allow the border patrol to muster evidence for the US as part of a “covert criminal investigation”.
In the footage, Meng appears to be moving through the Vancouver airport customs and immigration area, escorted by border agents and being interrogated.
In a transcript, she repeatedly asks why she was being detained and is told she can contact a lawyer, but not her family.
“My family members will be worried if they can’t find me,” Meng says.
Meng was searched and questioned for hours in violation of her constitutional rights, said her lawyers. She spent over a week in detention before being granted bail.
In May, the US administration placed Huawei on a trade blacklist that bans the sale of US parts and components to the Chinese company without special licenses, which it had not issued apart from allowing the repair and maintenance of existing products and networks.
Huawei is currently the largest telecommunications equipment maker globally and a major smartphone provider.
The United States also argues that Huawei’s smartphones and network equipment could be used by China to spy on Americans, allegations the company has denied on multiple occasions.
In one of the released documents, the US describes the evidence against Meng, including articles published by Reuters in 2012 and 2013 regarding an Iranian company called Skycom Tech that had attempted to sell computer equipment by a United States firm to a customer in Iran.
The reporting detailed links between Huawei and Skycom, including that she had served on the latter’s board of directors between February 2008 and April 2009.
The articles were “concerning” to at least four banks that had transacted with Huawei, according to the document, which was written by a US federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, New York, where the case was brought against both Meng and Huawei.
The United States laws and regulations generally bars the banks from offering US dollar transactions tied to Iran via the US.
Meng and others defrauded HSBC among other banks by misrepresenting Huawei’s ties with Skycom, according to US prosecutors who claim Skycom’s dealings in Iran were controlled by Huawei from around 2007 to 2014.
US authorities believe Huawei used Skycom to acquire embargoed U.S goods, services and technology in Iran, and to transfer money through the international banking system.
According to the newly released document regarding the evidence, witnesses for the prosecution of the US case will include executives from Citigroup, HSBC and Standard Chartered, plus an FBI forensic accountant is expected to attest about documents indicating BNP Paribas offered banking services for Huawei between at least 2013 and 2018.