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Status of Huawei CFO’s husband questioned as he tries to post bail for wealthy wife

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What does $15 million mean to the daughter of a Chinese telecom billionaire? And what kind of hold will two Vancouver properties — no matter how pricey — exert on her husband?

After two days of argument in B.C. Supreme Court, the answers to those questions are likely to prove crucial Tuesday as a judge decides whether or not to grant bail to Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

Justice William Ehrcke reserved judgment on a proposal for the 46-year-old’s release Monday after a day of arguments stressing the unique nature of a situation resulting in the spectacle of one of China’s most powerful women bargaining for her freedom as she awaits possible extradition to the United States for allegedly violating trade sanctions against Iran.

“They could lose 15 million and go on with their life, and their lifestyle wouldn’t be appreciably different.” Ehrcke noted as he asked questions of Crown and defence lawyers at the end of the day.

“I want all the help that counsel can give me.”

‘I say that is a serious offence’

According to a summary of facts filed with the court, Meng is accused of repeatedly lying to financial institutions about the relationship between Huawei and a company called Skycom that did business in Iran in violation of international sanctions.

U.S. prosecutors claim “Huawei operated Skycom as an unofficial subsidiary to conduct business in Iran while concealing Skycom’s link to Huawei.”

Meng poses with her family in one of a series of pictures filed in court in support of her bail application. (B.C. Supreme Court)

Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei. She serves as deputy chairwoman of the company’s board and served on the board of Skycom in 2008 and 2009.

As a result of her alleged lies, prosecutors contend that the banks she dealt with were “induced into carrying out transactions that they otherwise would not have contemplated.” Those transactions put them on the wrong side of the international community.

“I say that is a serious offence,” said federal Crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley. “That’s assisting Iran in violation of the sanctions.”

‘Global interest will be triggered’

From the outset of the bail proceedings last week, Meng’s lawyer predicted that the stature of his client would trigger global interest in the case.

The first appearance happened in a virtually empty courtroom. CBC News has listened to a recording of the initial hearing, in which David Martin argued successfully for a temporary publication ban.

He likened the case to the arrest of Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. “That kind of global interest will be triggered,” he said.

Watch Meng’s bail hearing draw crowds in Vancouver:

Here’s a glimpse of what the scene looked like outside of the B.C. Supreme Court on December 10, 2018. 0:42

A week later, a wall of cameras sat at the steps of the B.C. Supreme Court building in downtown Vancouver. Reporters from New York to Japan have requested accreditation.

The lineup to get inside the secure courtroom built for the Air India trial stretched beyond a set of concrete steps to the next floor. Students did homework as they waited.

A man who claimed he graduated from school with Meng asked if he would be able to see her from the gallery. A woman claimed she once had dinner with Meng; she was worried about the toll on her health.

‘Jailer in the community’

Inside the court, supporters and the curious packed the public gallery. Cellphones rang in violation of court rules as grim-faced sheriffs walked up and down the line telling the crowd not to take pictures.

Meng cut a strange figure when she arrived from Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge.

In this courtroom sketch, Meng wears prison green sweats as she sits beside a translator during her bail hearing on Friday. (Jane Wolsak/Canadian Press)

She wore a shapeless green track suit but gave firm orders as she stood to direct an assistant who ran back and forth between the glass-enclosed prisoner’s box and the tables holding a team of Meng’s high-priced lawyers.

Her husband, venture capitalist Xiaozong Liu, sat in the front row of the public gallery a few metres away. A team of Huawei employees surrounded him.

Liu has offered to act as surety, putting up both his Vancouver homes as well as $1 million in cash, an amount totalling about $15 million.

But Martin and the judge struggled with the idea of a non-resident acting in a role described as being Meng’s “jailer in the community.”

‘There always has to be a first time’

Gibb-Carsley also doubted Liu’s ability to act as surety, given that his life — like Meng’s — is almost entirely in China.

He questioned the assertion that the couple has meaningful ties to the local community. And he also noted that many of the photographs the couple filed with the court as proof of their Canadian lives were essentially tourist snaps.

“If Ms. Meng was to flee, Mr. Liu would not be left behind,” Gibb-Carsley said.

Meng poses with one of her children in a picture she filed with the court. (B.C. Supreme Court)

The plan for Meng’s potential release calls for round-the-clock physical surveillance combined with an electronic ankle monitor using GPS to mark her location. The heads of two security firms testified to the reliability of their products.

But Gibb-Carsley noted that neither man could guarantee Meng wouldn’t escape. He asked them about the possibility of their electronic systems being compromised.

No matter how remote, he later told the judge, the court couldn’t discount the possibility Meng might use her vast wealth and unique access to the world’s most popular telecommunications technology to evade her captors.

“Is that the risk the court should take?” Gibb-Carsley asked the judge.

“There always has to be a first time,” Ehrcke quipped.

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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