British Columbia

Attorney general accuses Meng Wanzhou's lawyers of 'fishing' for information

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general claim Meng Wanzhou's legal team is on a "fishing" expedition in its attempts to prove Canadian and U.S. authorities colluded in the arrest of the Huawei executive.

Defence team claims CBSA administrators concerned about appearance of collusion in arrest of Huawei CFO

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to head to B.C. Supreme Court on Monday for a procedural hearing in her extradition case. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general claim Meng Wanzhou's legal team is on a "fishing" expedition in its attempts to prove Canadian and U.S. authorities colluded in the arrest of the Huawei executive.

The Crown's response to the accusation of collusion was released Monday on the first day of hearings in B.C. Supreme Court, in which Meng's lawyers are attempting to access records pertaining to her arrest at Vancouver's airport in December 2018.

The Huawei chief financial officer's legal team claims the Canada Border Services Agency detained Meng for three hours before RCMP arrested her in order to conduct a "covert criminal investigation" at the behest of the FBI.

But the Crown says Meng was treated like any other traveller seeking entry to Canada with an arrest warrant in their name.

And it claims that despite being provided with volumes of records, her defence team has been unable to prove otherwise.

Meng "is fishing with a drift net cast broadly and indiscriminately in an effort to catch information," the Crown claims in its response.

"There was no conspiracy. The only plan was for the CBSA to carry out its lawful mandate and nothing more."

Court sketch by Jane Wolsak of Wanzhou, in purple, listening to her translator, left, in a Vancouver court on Monday. (Jane Wolsak)

Smiling and talking to well-wishers

American prosecutors want Meng extradited for allegedly lying to banks about Huawei's relationship with an alleged subsidiary said to be violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Meng's actual extradition hearing is set to begin in January 2020, but the defence is arguing in advance for access to documents it claims will help prove Meng's arrest amounted to an abuse of process.

Her legal team ultimately plans to argue that an alleged violation of her rights at the time of her arrest, combined with political interference from U.S. President Donald Trump, should warrant a stay of proceedings.

A lineup formed outside the fifth-floor courtroom well before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes took her seat behind the bench. It was the first time Meng had been in the court since May.

Dressed in a long, soft rust-coloured overcoat and purple dress, she strode past the line in glittering silver pumps, offset by a black ankle monitor strapped to her leg as part of her bail conditions.

Meng's ankle monitoring bracelet is seen between the hem of her dress and her shoes. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

She stopped to speak in Mandarin with two female supporters, politely declining interview requests from a number of reporters.

The two women clutched her arm and Meng touched the corner of her eye with her finger as they spoke. An onlooker said they were talking about medical matters.

Inside the court, she and a translator were allowed to move from the prisoner's box to a bench behind her legal team where they pored through the volumes of legal documents entered into the record.

Court sketch of Madame Justice Holmes, left, listening to defence lawyer Richard Peck in Vancouver on Monday, September 23, 2019. (Jane Wolsak)

'Looks like may have been collusion'

The hearing concerns the events leading up to and including Meng's arrest.

Her lawyers claim there was an original plan to arrest Meng on the plane when it arrived from Hong Kong. Instead, CBSA officers detained her for three hours before RCMP stepped in, searching her bags, seizing her electronic devices and asking her questions.

The defence filed its own response to the Crown's arguments, citing documents received in the past two weeks which it  claims show the concern CBSA administrators had about the appearance of wrongdoing.

A still from a video of Meng filed as part of court proceedings. The Crown says she was treated the same way as any other traveller. (Court proceedings)

It points to a set of handwritten notes from an assistant to the vice-president of CBSA which "relate to at least two different planning calls or meetings where senior CBSA officials strategized on how they would portray" the arrest.

"Did CBSA have authority to hand over her stuff to RCMP?" one of the questions reads. "For outsiders/lawyers looks like may have been collusion, even if not."

Meng's lawyers claim the CBSA then came up with talking points to "explain their conduct."

"As these notes reflect, to outsiders and lawyers, it 'looks like there may have been collusion,'" her lawyers state.

"There is evidence that multiple Canadian law enforcement agencies concocted a plan to misuse Canadian immigration processes to gather evidence. In other words, there is evidence of abusive state conduct directed at [Meng]."

'Standard procedure'

But the Crown says there is no evidence RCMP and CBSA officers discussed plans for her arrest.

They claim Meng was subject to "standard procedure" for any traveller. And that since an arrest warrant for fraud relating to Iran showed up on the system, it would have been natural for her to be questioned.

"The fact that after consulting with CBSA about standard procedures, it was determined that the RCMP should wait until the immigration procedure was completed accords with common sense," the Crown says.

"The CBSA processes hundreds of thousands of individuals each year at YVR and are the first point of contact for travellers from abroad entering Canada."

The CBSA says Meng's electronic devices were never searched. They also say the FBI requested information about Meng's interviews in the months following her detention but were denied access by the CBSA. In order for a judge to order more access to the records in question, the defence has to prove that its allegations have an "air of reality."

But the Crown says Meng's lawyers have failed to make their case.

"There has been no improper conduct on the part of the requesting state, no 'sham' proceedings conducted by Canadian officials or otherwise improper conduct," the Crown says.

The hearing is expected to extend into next week.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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