VANCOUVER—The U.S. government’s hunch that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou had passports beyond the seven it listed to oppose her release on bail appears to be true.
What it actually means is unclear, as no one would say whether she handed over the special Chinese passport over, let alone whether it could be used to leave the country.
The Hong Kong Companies Registry has confirmed to StarMetro that Meng has a special public affairs passport issued by the Chinese government. It was not included in a December court submission by U.S. federal attorney Richard Donoghue, who warned that it was “entirely possible” she had more than the seven passports she had previously used to travel to the U.S.
When asked if the passport was still valid, Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said companies are required by law to keep an index with identity information of its directors and that the information must be up to date.
“There are statutory requirements that if there is any change in the particulars mentioned, the company must, within 15 days of the change, deliver to the Registrar for registration a notice in the specified form to report such change,” the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said in an email.
It’s unclear if Meng surrendered the public affairs passport — issued only to China’s elite business and government officials — as part of her bail conditions, because documents released to StarMetro have been heavily redacted. Government and court officials on both sides of the border have either not responded to or declined multiple requests for interviews related to Meng’s travel documents.
The Canadian Department of Justice said any passports held by Meng must be handed over to the RCMP, but declined to comment on whether this particular passport was among those surrendered. The RCMP also declined to comment, citing the case as an ongoing investigation.
“The bail order issued by the BC Supreme Court specifies that Ms. Meng must surrender any and all passports and travel documents to the RCMP. For privacy reasons, we cannot specify the numbers of the passports that were surrendered,” said Ian McLeod, a spokesman with the Canadian Department of Justice.
The public affairs passport has the letter P before its numbers — setting it apart from all passport numbers that have been linked to Meng and made public.
Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said holding one of these passports is a sign of prestige in the country.
Among other things, “it means you can use special lanes at the airport,” Saint-Jacques said.
“When we received requests of Chinese delegations coming from Canada, I would ask how come they have such a passport and not a regular passport? I think it’s part of these shenanigans and the way the China government works and the connections one has,” he added.
Meng’s numerous passports played a key role in the lengthy bail hearing that followed her Dec. 1 arrest at the Vancouver airport.
Both the Attorney General of Canada and the U.S. government, in opposing her release while awaiting extradition, cited the risk she could use her wealth, resources and multiple passports to flee the country. Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley had described her flight risk as “unmanageable.”
Judge William Ehrcke granted Meng’s bail release with multiple conditions, including that she surrender all of her passports.
He concluded, after verbal arguments in the courtroom, that only two of Meng’s passports were valid for travel at that time.
With files from Joanna Chiu
Michael Mui is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @mui24hours