Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of the Chinese company Huawei was recently arrested in Canada, and is facing extradition to the US, allegedly on charges of breaking violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The thing is, Meng isn't a US national, isn't on US soil and neither Canada nor China have approved the renewal of the Iran embargo, this renewal being an unilateral US decision.

On what basis can the US have Meng arrested for violating an embargo neither her host country nor her home country agreed to?

On an informal note, I'd understand having her or her company's assets frozen, declaring her persona-non-grata, or making it illegal to deal with Huawei, but having Meng jailed (while in a different country, no less) seems like a major overreach to me; it gives the impression that the US can just have whoever they want arrested on foreign soil for not respecting rules they decided on unilaterally.

EDIT - More generally, is there any US legal doctrine that non-US-citizens, outside of US sovereign territory, are subject to US criminal or civil law? Are there precedents for arrests of this kind?

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    Perhaps more generally, is there any US legal doctrine that non-US-citizens, outside of US sovereign territory, are subject to US criminal or civil law?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 23:31
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    ... and why does Canada support such legal doctrine and make arrests on the US' behalf? This is a totally bizarre story.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 23:34
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    The base is the need to do business with the USA. If Canada refused, the USA would force it to. Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 23:34
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    Wikipedia. Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 2:56
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    Although the arrest of Meng Wanzhou gives the impression that there is a policial motivation behind it, the laws which apply to international arrests and extraditions are a topic for law stack exchange.
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 13:42

2 Answers 2


The Star Vancouver has a good article outlining the actual charges. Meng is not charged with "violating an embargo" but with defrauding U.S. financial institutions. It may be easier to report that the "crime" is violating sanctions but it's a little more nuanced. Meng is charged with defrauding U.S. financial institutions in order to avoid sanctions.

From the article:

The U.S. authorities allege Meng committed fraud by telling an HSBC executive her company was in compliance with U.S. sanctions against Iran limiting communication technology. The meeting took place in 2013, but the location was not revealed.

HSBC is based in London with operations in the United States.

Joanna Chiu, the Star reporter who followed the bail hearing, tweeted:

US banks became concerned about the relationship between Huawei and subsidiary SkyCom. Meng told banks the two were separate when in fact "Huawei is SkyCom. This is the alleged fraud".

Supposedly, the claims were in a PowerPoint presentation made to a financial institution in 2013. As a result of those claims, banks in the U.S. cleared financial transactions for Huawei.

The nexus between Meng, Huawei, SkyCom and U.S. law is Meng making claims to HSBC that Huawei is not related to SkyCom inducing U.S. based financial institutions to unknowingly engage in transactions that violated sanctions with Iran. Thus, the fraud charge against Meng.


Basically - the US considers any of certain acts regardless who commits them or where - illegal - and Canada has treaty obligation to detain & extradite individuals to the US who fulfil certain criteria (such as aiding and abetting the breaking of sanctions designed to limit the spread of weapons of mass destruction to 'rogue states.')

Being as the Canadians are still considering the legality of the extradition, that cannot reasonably answered. Canada certainly does have treaty obligation (and so the legal justification) to detain pursuant to investigation.

Legal & regulatory frameworks have a great many vulnerabilities and most of them become essentially unenforceable without some measure of jurisdictional cooperation. I don't know how it could come as a surprise that somebody committing a murder in one state or nation might still be considered guilty of that crime after moving to another jurisdiction, regardless of whether the act was considered criminal in the destination, the criteria for detention are different.

As everything upon which humans provide for themselves or others (or harm themselves or others) can be acquired with money, it follows that financial activities are of some importance.


Each Contracting Party agrees to extradite to the other, in the circum­stances and subject to the conditions described in this Treaty, persons found in its territory who have been charged with, or convicted of, any of the offenses covered by Article 2 of this Treaty committed within the territory of the other, or outside thereof under the conditions specified in Article 3 (3) of this Treaty.

(1) Persons shall be delivered up according to the provisions of this Treaty for any of the offenses listed in the Schedule annexed to this Treaty, which is an integral part of this Treaty, provided these offenses are punishable by the laws of both >Contracting Parties by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year.

The Schedule is fairly irrelevant to the question, the articles demonstrate that the law/treaty obligation applies to the crime committed/charge proposed, the country of origin of the individual in question is irrelevant unless Canada also happens to have another treaty ratified/legal within it's legislature that denies such an extradition base on country of origin.


  1. What activities by foreign financial institutions can subject them to CISADA sanctions?

As described in the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations, the sanctionable activities of a foreign financial institution are:

Facilitating the efforts of the Government of Iran (GOI) to acquire or develop Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) or delivery systems for WMD or to provide support for terrorist organizations or acts of international terrorism;

Facilitating the activities of a person subject to financial sanctions pursuant to UNSCRs 1737, 1747, 1803, or 1929, or any other Security Council resolution that imposes sanctions with respect to Iran;

Engaging in money laundering, or facilitating efforts by the Central Bank of Iran or any other Iranian financial institution, to carry out either of the facilitating activities described above; or

Facilitating a significant transaction or transactions or providing significant financial services for: (i) the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or any of its agents or affiliates whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), or (ii) a financial institution whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to IEEPA in connection with Iran’s proliferation of WMD, Iran’s proliferation of delivery systems for WMD, or Iran’s support for international terrorism.


That there are political factors involved does not mean it is justified to say that something is politically motivated, though every law is a result of political motion. In this case we might say it is, one might imagine the US Federal government feels it needs to attract public and international attention to the reality of Chinese espionage as a significant proportion of the American public has apparently arrived at the view that everybody in the world is fluffy except the Feds and the Russians.

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    This Bloomberg article claims: "Canada has an Iranian-sanctions policy, but it’s less clear if violations are enforced through the country’s criminal code. Sanctions violations aren’t among the extraditable crimes described in the treaty, though there are provisions for fraud by a corporate officer and receiving proceeds from illegal activity." Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 16:58
  • laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/u-2/page-1.html#h-2 That doesn't look unclear.
    – Giu Piete
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 17:37
  • The basic rule of Extradition Treaties in the United States is that they will not extradite nor will be granted extradition if the threshholds if the evidence meets the burden of proof for the arrest, both countries list the offenses as a crime, and the sentences are reasonably similar. Canada-Us extradition is a good examination of these things as they are very close allies, with very similar laws, legal systems, and legal protections that most extradition requests are honored. However there are some differences that come up that frustrate this.+
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 18:26
  • +For example, Canada has abolished the death penalty, where as it is still extant law in several U.S. States and the Federal government. Canada will not extradite anyone facing a Death Penalty offense to the United States, even if they are a serial baby killer. However, the U.S. can side step this restriction if the Prosecutor of the case promises that the Death Penalty will not be sought for the specific case. Similarly, Canada has laws about the use of Hate Speech that are unconstitutional in the United States. The US will never extradite to Canada for this specific crime.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 7, 2018 at 18:32
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    I understand that Canada will enforce sanctions decided by the UN Security Council. But the re-installment of sanctions against Iran are an unilateral decision from the US government, with no backing from the Security Council (which originally ratified the JCPOA) or, as far as I know, Canada. So the question remains: can a Chinese national be arrested in Canada for something that isn't a crime in China or Canada, because the US said so? Commented Dec 8, 2018 at 10:50

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