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HSBC to share files with lawyers for Huawei's Meng Wanzhou

Bank previously beat back demand for documents in UK court

Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, right, has been fighting extradition from Canada to the U.S. in court in Vancouver.   © AP

HONG KONG -- HSBC Holdings has agreed to share documents with lawyers for Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou as she fights deportation from Canada to the U.S.

Meng's lawyers in February unsuccessfully petitioned a court in the U.K., where HSBC is based, to force the bank to release documents for Meng's defense. They then turned to Hong Kong courts for help last month.

Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer and the eldest daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was detained at Vancouver airport in December 2018 on a U.S. warrant. American officials allege that Meng committed fraud by misleading HSBC into handling transactions that breached U.S. trade sanctions against Iran. Meng has denied the charges.

HSBC "may have concluded an agreement it can control is better than letting the [Hong Kong] court decide," said Andrew Collier, managing director of Hong Kong-based Oriental Capital Research and previously president of Bank of China International USA.

Hong Kong High Court Judge Linda Chan issued an order Monday morning on the document-sharing agreement after a hearing that lasted just a few minutes. Representatives of HSBC and Huawei confirmed the agreement without providing details. The order itself was not immediately made available.

It is unclear exactly what documents HSBC will share. Meng's lawyers have sought internal compliance notes pertaining to Huawei and Skycom Tech, a sometime affiliate that had business dealings in Iran from December 2012 to April 2015.

An ostensibly final round of hearings on Meng's extradition case began last month in Vancouver and is set to run through May, although further appeals could drag the process out.

Huawei alleges that HSBC made false claims about the telecommunications company's dealings with Iran in exchange for leniency from U.S. prosecutors over the bank's own actions in the country, in what Meng's lawyers have called a "wrongful bargain." Chinese state media outlets have blasted HSBC over its role in her detention.

For its part, HSBC has said it only responded factually to U.S. authorities' requests for information.

HSBC's disclosure agreement with Meng's legal team comes as the bank pivots to Asia in search of growth and shrinks its U.S. and European operations. HSBC has come under fire in the U.K. and U.S. for offering support for China's Hong Kong national security law, which critics say erodes the city's autonomy.

HSBC shares were down 1.4% in Hong Kong at HK$45.90 on Monday afternoon.

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