HSBC has agreed to hand over documents to Huawei that the bank gave to US prosecutors after legal pressure by the Chinese technology group as it attempts to block the extradition of its chief financial officer from Canada to the US.
The US Department of Justice had obtained the documents from HSBC as part of its investigation into whether Huawei breached sanctions against Iran, resulting in the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder, on charges of fraud.
Huawei had taken HSBC to court in London and Hong Kong in an attempt to access materials the lender gave to US prosecutors as part of their probe.
The settlement, which was announced on Monday, ended the legal proceedings initiated by Huawei and Meng in Hong Kong in February. The terms of the agreement have not been made public but involved “document production”, according to Huawei.
However, it marked just the latest challenge for HSBC in Asia, where it has struggled to navigate geopolitical tensions between the US, UK and China.
The UK-headquartered bank, which makes the bulk of its profits in Hong Kong, has angered China over its role in the US investigation into Huawei. Last summer, a Chinese government-backed website said HSBC was “maliciously” involved in Meng’s arrest. The bank has said it was legally obliged to provide its records to the US.
Meng was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver airport. US authorities are attempting to extradite her from Canada on charges of bank and wire fraud, and allege that she misled banks into processing transactions for Huawei that violated US sanctions on Iran.
Huawei has claimed that internal records at HSBC would show that the bank was aware it controlled Skycom, an Iran-linked company at the heart of the US case.
The documents Huawei had requested from HSBC in Hong Kong included records that would show Huawei and Skycom belonged to the same group of client accounts described as the “Huawei Master Group”, according to an earlier court filing.
Huawei also requested HSBC internal documents from between 2012 and 2015 that showed how the bank evaluated the “compliance, sanctions, credit or reputational risk” posed by continuing its relationship with Huawei.
It was not immediately clear which documents HSBC would provide to Huawei as part of the settlement announced on Monday.
Huawei said: “An agreement has been reached with HSBC in relation to the Hong Kong legal proceedings for document production and an order has been approved by the court.”
HSBC said it had “reached an agreement with Huawei and Ms Meng to resolve the legal proceedings in Hong Kong regarding their request for documents”.
Huawei took its fight for the documents to Hong Kong after it lost its case in the High Court in London in February. The judge said the court lacked the jurisdiction to make the order Huawei sought.
HSBC was Huawei’s most important international bank, holding relationships with the technology group in more than 40 countries.
HSBC cleared more than $100m of transactions related to Skycom through the US between 2010 and 2014, according to the London High Court ruling, which cited the US case against Meng. At least $7.5m of that was paid by Skycom to a staffing company in the UK, Networkers International, which provided contractors to work on Huawei’s telecoms projects in Iran, contrary to US sanctions law, the ruling said.
The US case, cited in the English court judgment, has claimed that Huawei made “untrue representations” to HSBC in a PowerPoint presentation in Hong Kong in 2013 that denied the tech group controlled Skycom. In fact, Huawei controlled Skycom’s operations in Iran until at least 2014, the US case has claimed.
Huawei has said there was “no misrepresentation” in the PowerPoint presentation.
Additional reporting by Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong