Bail hearing for embattled Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou will go to a third day

In Monday's bail hearing for embattled chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, her lawyer argued that nothing less than the dignity of her home country will be on the line if she makes bail.

'Inconceivable' that she would violate bail by fleeing Canada, her lawyer says

Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese technology giant Huawei, was detained on Dec. 1 while changing planes in Vancouver. Her bail hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday. (Alexander Bibik/Reuters)

After a second full day of hearings, there is no decision on whether the embattled chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei will be granted bail. The hearing is scheduled to resume Tuesday.

At issue Monday was the question of whether Meng Wanzhou, 46, poses a flight risk as she faces possible extradition to the U.S.

Her lawyer David Martin argued that nothing less than the dignity of her home country will be on the line if she makes bail. He made his bid for her release in a series of points aimed at convincing B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke it wouldn't be in the millionaire executive's self-interest to flee Canada.

"It does not overstate to say she would embarrass China itself," he told the judge.

But the Crown argued that because of Meng's unique circumstances, with her extensive wealth and access to technology, the risk of her fleeing was "an inch wide and a mile deep."

On Monday afternoon Justice Ehrcke decided the hearing would stretch into Tuesday, saying that while no one wants to lose $15 million for skipping bail, Meng and her husband could "lose 15 million and go on with their life, and their lifestyle wouldn't be appreciably different."

Supporters of Meng Wanzhou rally outside B.C.'s Supreme Court on Monday. (The Canadian Press)

After a full day Friday, the hearing resumed in a packed Vancouver courtroom Monday morning, in a case that has spooked international financial markets and threatened to damage the delicate trade relationship between the United States and China.

Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei's founder, was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 on suspicion of fraud involving violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran. American prosecutors are fighting for her extradition. 

'Woman of character and dignity'

Canadian prosecutors first argued against granting Meng bail during her first court appearance in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday.

But Martin called the evidence against her "far from overwhelming," arguing that her flight would be "inconceivable."

"She is a woman of character and dignity. That she is deeply respectful of the rule of law," Martin told the judge.

"It would take somebody who is utterly tone deaf to not understand that the United States has a political legal posture of adversity against both China and its largest company."

The public gallery in B.C. Supreme Court was full on Monday as Meng's bail hearing resumed. (The Canadian Press)

Prosecutors have asked the court to consider the fact that Meng hasn't travelled to the U.S. since 2017 as proof that she knows she faces the possibility of arrest.

But Martin said there are many reasons someone might not go to the U.S.

"I like to go to New York or L.A. as much as anybody — but it's not necessary for people to travel there."

Electronic surveillance proposed

Meng entered the packed courtroom wearing a green prison sweatsuit, her husband sitting in the front row near the glass prison enclosure.

For much of the morning, Martin focused on the effectiveness of electronic monitoring, proposing that Meng would wear a body-tracking device and be followed by a private security team — and that she would pick up the tab.

Lions Gate Risk Management Group chief executive Scott Filer, a former RCMP staff sergeant, testified that Meng would carry tracking equipment and wear a body tracking device to indicate her whereabouts.

The security team proposed for Meng would include a former RCMP officer previously responsible for all emergency response teams in B.C. 

Meng is shown with a translator during a bail hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday. (Jane Wolsak/Canadian Press)

Filer said it would be the first time a risk-management company became involved in monitoring bail, and that while he can't guarantee they won't lose track of Meng, they would be able to answer the demands of the court.

Stephen Tan, a founding partner of a GPS monitoring services company, testified that his company has monitored 520 people out on bail — with only one person fleeing successfully.

Tan said the ankle bracelet that Meng would be required to wear can be removed with a pair of scissors, but that an alert is triggered when the bracelet is tampered with. He said the company has handled other high-profile extradition cases that involved concerns around hacking of the electronic devices.

Crown cites risk of hacking

But Crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley said the plan did not fully address the risk of hacking associated with Meng's case given her unusual level of access to resources and technology, arguing that house arrest would be more appropriate, should Meng be granted bail. 

"We're dealing with the CFO of the world's largest telecommunications company," he said.

It also argued that despite Meng owning two homes in Vancouver, her connections to the city, where she said she spends two to three weeks a year, are "not meaningful."

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

The Crown also asked that if she posts the $15 million bail, at least half of it be in cash — to which Meng's lawyer replied she could post the full amount in cash, if necessary.

While an electronic monitoring bracelet was ready to go in court, the judge eventually delayed the decision, taking issue with the proposal that Meng's husband act as her surety while she is out on bail, given that he has a visa to remain in Canada for six months, and the case could go on for years.

Meng allegedly accessed Iranian market

Meng allegedly used an unofficial company called Skycom to access the Iranian market between 2009 and 2014 — dealings that would be in violation of U.S. sanctions.​

It's also alleged Meng and other Huawei executives found out about U.S. criminal investigations into the company's practices and began to alter travel patterns to avoid American authorities during or around 2017.

Court documents reveal that Meng was once a permanent resident of Canada and show pictures of Canadian government-issued identification, including her social insurance number and B.C. ID. She relinquished her residency nearly a decade ago. (Court documents)

Multiple fraud charges against her each carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Meng was en route from Hong Kong to Mexico when she was arrested while changing planes at Vancouver International Airport.

Meng's links to Vancouver

In a bail application, Meng said she has longstanding ties to Vancouver dating back at least 15 years as well as two homes in the city.

Court documents reveal that Meng was once a permanent resident of Canada and show pictures of Canadian government-issued identification, including her social insurance number and B.C. ID. She relinquished her residency nearly a decade ago.

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is fighting to be released on bail after she was arrested on Dec. 1 in Canada at the request of the U.S. CBC's Salimah Shivji reports. 2:44

In a sworn affadavit, Meng said she is innocent and will contest allegations against her at trial in the United States, if she is surrendered there.

Huawei is one of the world's biggest suppliers of network gear for phone and internet companies.

About the Author

Michelle Ghoussoub

@MichelleGhsoub

Michelle Ghoussoub is a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. She has previously reported in Lebanon and Chile. Reach her at michelle.ghoussoub@cbc.ca or on Twitter @MichelleGhsoub.

With files from The Associated Press, Rhianna Schmunk and Jason Proctor

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