Trudeau: Kovrig, Spavor on plane back to Canada after Chinese detention

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor - the two Canadians detained in China after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou here in Vancouver - have been released.

Trudeau made the announcement this evening in a televised address, noting that the two Canadians boarded a plane at about 4:30 p.m. Vancouver time - coincidentally about 10 minutes after the plane carrying Huawei Technologies CFO Meng departed YVR for China.

“These two men have been through an unbelievably difficult situation, but it is inspiring and it is good news for all of us that they are on their way home to their families,” Trudeau said during his announcement.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested separately by Chinese authorities shortly after the arrest of Meng at YVR on Dec. 1, 2018 on a U.S. extradition request. Ostensibly, the pair were arrested for espionage according to Beijing; many observers, however, noted the move as likely retaliation for Meng’s own arrest and detention.

Meng was discharged from her extradition process today after the Huawei executive reached a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities - where she would follow a list of obligations and not challenge an American statement of facts on the case that stated Meng knowingly deceived HSBC about its subsidiary’s operations in Iran.

In exchange, Meng would not have to plea guilty to her charges of fraud and money laundering, and the United States will drop charges against her if all obligations were followed up to Dec. 1, 2022.

Back in August, Spavor was sentenced in Dadong court to 11 years in prison plus a confiscation of about $8,000 and deportation. It was not clear at the time how or in what order the penalties would be carried out.

Kovrig, who was arrested and tried in Beijing, was awaiting his sentencing at the time of his release.

Canadian diplomats had complained in both cases that they were not allowed to attend the hearings, decrying a lack of transparency usually afforded foreign citizens in a country’s legal court.