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Huawei lawyers claim emails prove US has no grounds to extradite CFO from Canada | Huawei

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US justice department’s battle to extradite Meng Wanzhou from Canada has taken a fresh turn as lawyers for Huawei’s chief financial officer claimed that internal emails and bank documents prove there is no grounds to extradite her to the US.

Meng, 48, was arrested on a US warrant at Vancouver airport in late 2018, and has been battling extradition to the US. Her detention infuriated the Chinese government and has helped drag relations between Beijing and Ottawa to their lowest point in years.

The US accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company called Skycom to sell equipment to Iran in violation of US sanctions. It says Meng, 48, committed fraud by misleading HSBC about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

But Meng’s legal team argue that documents from HSBC show that Huawei was open about its links to Skycom. In a statement, Huawei Canada said: “These documents consisting of emails and other HSBC records show there is no evidence of fraud on HSBC.

“They show that Huawei’s control over Skycom was not kept from senior HSBC executives, that the continuing nature of Skycom’s business with Huawei in Iran was not kept from HSBC executives and that internal HSBC risk assessments were made based on knowledge of the true facts”.

It added “the reputational risks were managed with the knowledge of senior HSBC executives”.

Huawei lawyers will now try to persuade the Canadian court to permit the internal documents to be introduced as evidence.

Government lawyers in Canada are likely to contest Huawei’s interpretation of the documents and have argued that they are irrelevant to the extradition process and should be reserved for a fraud trial in the US.

Huawei has claimed that Meng’s arrest was prompted by the US as part of a trade war with China launched by Donald Trump.

Meng’s lawyers have been battling to gain access to the HSBC documents first in a case in February in the UK that proved unsuccessful and then in March in Hong Kong where it reached an out of court settlement with HSBC. The terms of the settlement was not published, but it appears HSBC gave Huawei access to the papers, with a confidentiality clause attached.

But last week the Canadian courts accepted an application from Canadian prosecutors and media groups that the information could not be kept under seal, an outcome that may not in reality have disappointed Huawei since it made it more likely the evidence would be admissible in court to challenge the extradition claim.

US prosecutors allege Meng gave a PowerPoint presentation to HSBC in August 2013 that the US claims “involved untrue representations” by downplaying her firm’s control of Skycom, describing the firm simply as a business partner. The US says Huawei in reality controlled Skycom’s operations in Iran until at least 2014.

HSBC, according to the US government, “relied on those and other misrepresentations in deciding to continue the banking relationship with Huawei”.

HSBC “cleared more than $100m worth of transactions related to Skycom through the United States between 2010 and 2014”, says the US.

But Huawei argues the new documentation shows Meng did not mislead the bank, and so the basis for her extradition to the US is undermined.

HSBC had already given the internal documents to the US justice department in a bid to avoid prosecution by the US, but not to Meng’s lawyers.

The Chinese government has sharply criticised HSBC’s cooperation with the US government over the case.

HSBC has said it had no legal option but to cooperate with the US authorities. But the bank has been caught in a political quandary since it is headquartered in the UK and the bulk of its profits are made in China.

Meng has been living in one of her Vancouver homes on bail since her arrest at the city’s airport in December 2018. Days after Meng’s arrest a former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested by the Chinese government on espionage charges. They remain in detention.

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SSD belonging to Euro-cloud Scaleway was stolen from back of a truck, then turned up on YouTube • The Register

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In brief Deepmind and the European Bioinformatics Institute released a database of more than 350,000 3D protein structures predicted by the biz’s AI model AlphaFold.

That data covers the 20,000 or so proteins made in the human body, and is available for anyone to study. The proteomes of 20 other organisms, from Zebrafish to E.coli bacteria, are also in there, too, and hundreds of millions of more structures will be added over time, we’re told.

“In the hands of scientists around the world, this new protein almanac will enable and accelerate research that will advance our understanding of these building blocks of life,” said DeepMind’s CEO Demis Hassabis. He hopes that it will be a valuable resource that will be used in the discovery of new drugs and our understanding of diseases.

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Reid Hoffman to join board of electric air-taxi start-up Joby

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Reid Hoffman. Image: ReidHoffman.org

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is helping to take Joby, which is being billed as ‘Tesla meets Uber in the air’, public through a SPAC deal.

Electric air-taxi start-up Joby Aviation will add Silicon Valley figure Reid Hoffman to its board as the company prepares to go public via a merger with a blank-cheque firm.

LinkedIn co-founder Hoffman, who is now a partner at venture capital firm Greylock, has a key connection to the 12-year-old start-up. Earlier this year, it was announced that Joby is going public through a $6.6bn reverse merger deal with Reinvent Technology Partners, the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Hoffman set up with Zynga founder Mark Pincus and investor Michael Thompson.

The deal is expected to close in this summer. Joby is the first aerial vehicle start-up to go public via the SPAC route, and the deal will provide the company with $1.6bn in cash.

SPACs have been growing in popularity this year as they can provide a quicker way of bringing a company public rather than the traditional route of an initial public offering.

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Hoffman will be added by the Joby board once the deal is complete, alongside Google general counsel Halimah DeLaine Prado and former Southwest Airlines CFO Laura Wright.

Toyota Motor Corporation board member and operating officer James Kuffner and Zoox CEO Aicha Evans have already been added to the board in recent months.

“We are incredibly humbled to have been able to assemble such a remarkable and diverse group of world-class leaders to guide and support Joby as we plan to enter the public market,” said JoeBen Bevirt, Joby CEO and founder.

Joby acquired Uber’s Elevate flying car business at the end of December and now plans to begin a commercial passenger ‘air taxi’ service in 2024. Hoffman described the venture as “Tesla meets Uber in the air” in a recent interview.

The company will work with Toyota from its California-based manufacturing facility to build its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Toyota led the company’s $620m Series C funding round last year, with other investors including Intel Capital and JetBlue Technology Ventures.

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Virtual contact worse than no contact for over-60s in lockdown, says study | Coronavirus

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Virtual contact during the pandemic made many over-60s feel lonelier and more depressed than no contact at all, new research has found.

Many older people stayed in touch with family and friends during lockdown using the phone, video calls, and other forms of virtual contact. Zoom choirs, online book clubs and virtual bedtime stories with grandchildren helped many stave off isolation.

But the study, among the first to comparatively assess social interactions across households and mental wellbeing during the pandemic, found many older people experienced a greater increase in loneliness and long-term mental health disorders as a result of the switch to online socialising than those who spent the pandemic on their own.

“We were surprised by the finding that an older person who had only virtual contact during lockdown experienced greater loneliness and negative mental health impacts than an older person who had no contact with other people at all,” said Dr Yang Hu of Lancaster University, who co-wrote the report, published on Monday in Frontiers in Sociology.

“We were expecting that a virtual contact was better than total isolation but that doesn’t seem to have been the case for older people,” he added.

The problem, said Hu, was that older people unfamiliar with technology found it stressful to learn how to use it. But even those who were familiar with technology often found the extensive use of the medium over lockdown so stressful that it was more damaging to their mental health than simply coping with isolation and loneliness.

“Extensive exposure to digital means of communication can also cause burnout. The results are very consistent,” said Hu, who collected data from 5,148 people aged 60 or over in the UK and 1,391 in the US – both before and during the pandemic.

“It’s not only loneliness that was made worse by virtual contact, but general mental health: these people were more depressed, more isolated and felt more unhappy as a direct result of their use of virtual contact,” he said.

The report, Covid-19, Inter-household Contact and Mental Wellbeing Among Older Adults in the US and the UK, analysed national data from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council-funded Understanding Society Covid-19 survey and the US Health and Retirement Study.

Hu said more emphasis needed to be placed on safe ways to have face-to-face contact in future emergencies. There must also, he added, be a drive to bolster the digital capacity of the older age groups.

“We need to have disaster preparedness,” he said. “We need to equip older people with the digital capacity to be able to use technology for the next time a disaster like this comes around.”

The findings outlined the limitations of a digital-only future and the promise of a digitally enhanced future in response to population ageing in the longer term, added Hu.

“Policymakers and practitioners need to take measures to pre-empt and mitigate the potential unintended implications of household-centred pandemic responses for mental wellbeing,” he said.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, welcomed the report. “We know the virtual environment can exacerbate those feelings of not actually being there with loved ones in person,” she said.

“It’s essential therefore that government makes preventing and tackling loneliness a top policy priority, backed up with adequate funding.

“It’s not over the top to point out that in the worst cases, loneliness can kill in the sense that it undermines resilience to health threats of many kinds, as well as leading to older people in the twilight of their lives losing all hope, so they lack a reason to carry on.”

Patrick Vernon, associate director at the Centre for Ageing Better, said he saw many examples of older people using technology to stay connected in “really positive ways”.

But he was also doubtful: “We know that even for those who are online, lack of skills and confidence can prevent people from using the internet in the ways that they’d like to.”

Previous research by the Centre for Ageing Better found that since the pandemic, there had been significant increases in the use of digital technology among those aged 50-70 years who were already online.

But there are still 3 million people across the UK who are offline, with a significant digital divide affecting low-income households. Twenty-seven per cent of people aged 50-70 with an annual household income under £25,000 were offline before the pandemic.

Vernon said: “Our research has found that some people who were offline found it difficult to connect with family, friends and neighbours during the pandemic – and even those who were online said technology didn’t compensate for missing out on physical social interactions.”

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