Arrested Chinese woman in U.S. is a signal that sanctions goes beyond only Huawei company


Two months ago, an employee of an unidentified Chinese technology company, she had been nabbed on vacation in California.

The employee, Liu “Willow” Yang, 29, ultimately pleaded guilty and went back to China. But unlike the legal spectacle in Canada over the extradition and prosecution of Huawei’s chief technology officer, the Yang matter remains largely under wraps in the U.S. Liu Yang admitted to helping ship more than $870,000 worth of American electronics to Iran over a six-year period.

The U.S. sanctions investigations are not productive at a time of heightened sensitivity in relations. Trade negotiations are hanging in the balance as the White House continues to try to economically and politically isolate Iran, a top Chinese trading partner.

On Friday, President Donald Trump raised tariffs on $200 billion in goods from China as he sought to extract concessions in trade negotiations taking place in Washington between U.S. officials and China’s top trade envoy, Liu He.

As the U.S. has sought to choke off a key source of Iranian state revenue — oil exports — China has resisted American demands to reduce purchases of oil from Iran, a major supplier for the country. In the highest-profile sanctions case, the CTO of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was detained in Canada in December on a U.S. warrant after authorities concluded she had played an intimate role in Huawei’s Iran business, including misleading banks and others about the extent of it.

The company, its U.S. subsidiary and Meng were indicted by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn in January, and the U.S. has blocked government use of Huawei technology, saying it could provide a backdoor for Chinese espionage. Huawei has vigorously denied the accusations.

Meng’s lawyers argued in court on Wednesday that her constitutional rights were violated when she was detained at the Vancouver airport before her arrest at the request of U.S. authorities. They also plan to question whether the U.S. bank-fraud charges against her constitute a crime in Canada.

The records indicate she began working with a co-conspirator whom she had met through her employment, and took on additional duties to make extra money. The duties involved organizing transshipments — routing deliveries through intermediate destinations, a technique often used to hide the origin or destination of illicit transactions. Even after she became aware that the deals violated U.S. sanctions laws, she continued to do it anyway, the filings say.

Instead of five years in prison, federal prosecutors recommended a lighter sentence because she “assisted authorities in the investigation and prosecution of this matter,” Chutkan, the judge, said during her sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers filed a joint motion seeking an order to have Yang deported home. Judge agreed, because Yang was “not the mastermind of the conspiracy.”

Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website

Natalia Veselnitskaya
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