British Columbia

RCMP supervisor claims she saw no problem with delay in arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver

The RCMP sergeant who headed the foreign and domestic liaison unit responsible for Meng Wanzhou’s arrest says she saw no problem with Canada Border Services Agency officers questioning the Huawei executive before she was taken into police custody in 2018.

Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf said earlier plan was for police to board Huawei exec's plane on arrival

Meng Wanzhou is attending court in Vancouevr where the Huawei executive is listening to the RCMP officers who were involved in her arrest give evidence. The defence claims Meng's rights were violated. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The RCMP sergeant who headed the foreign and domestic liaison unit responsible for Meng Wanzhou's arrest says she saw no problem with Canada Border Services Agency officers questioning the Huawei executive before she was taken into police custody.

Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf testified in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday that the original plan she discussed with her supervisor would have seen RCMP officers board Meng's plane on arrival from Hong Kong in order to execute a provisional arrest warrant.

But by the time she arrived at the airport on Dec. 1, 2018, Vander Graaf said her officers had agreed instead that the CBSA would intercept Meng once she got off the plane and then take her to a secondary examination area to begin an immigration admissibility examination.

"This seemed like a reasonable course of action and it seemed like a safe course of action," Vander Graaf said.

"[The CBSA] had to do what they had to do, and I didn't have any input on what they were planning on doing or what they needed to do for their job or their responsibility. So I had really no sense of the timeline of how long they would take."

Fraud and conspiracy charges

Vander Graaf was testifying at a hearing to gather evidence in advance of extradition proceedings next year. 

Defence lawyers plan to argue that the delay in the arrest amounts to a violation of Meng's rights because CBSA officers questioned her about her business without a lawyer, seized her electronic devices and asked her for the passcodes, which they later gave police in error.

Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf was the officer who oversaw the RCMP unit responsible for arresting Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver airport. She claims she saw no problem with having the CBSA deal with the Huawei executive first. (Felicity Don)

Meng faces fraud and conspiracy charges in New York in relation to allegations that she lied to an HSBC executive about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng's alleged lies to continue financing Huawei, HSBC was placed at risk of loss and prosecution.

Vander Graaf is the third RCMP officer to testify so far.

She took the stand after two days of testimony from Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal, one of the two officers who was tasked with executing a provisional warrant for Meng's arrest.

Conflicting evidence

Dhaliwal was the exhibits officer responsible for making sure that Meng's phones and laptops were kept secure. 

He and Vander Graaf are at the centre of conflicting evidence relating to defence allegations that RCMP improperly shared technical information about the electronic devices with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

RCMP Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal was the exhibits officer responsible for securing Meng Wanzhou's electronic devices. He claims that he did not send technical information from the devices to the FBI. (Felicity Don)

In testimony, Dhaliwal claimed he took pictures of the serial numbers, make and model of the devices and then sent them to the RCMP's file coordinator and a supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Ben Chang.

Vander Graaf's contemporaneous notes later record Dhaliwal telling her that Chang provided the serial numbers to the FBI. 

But Dhaliwal told a defence lawyer Tuesday that he had no recollection of Chang telling him he had sent the information — or of telling Vander Graaf it had happened.

Meng's lawyer, Scott Fenton, suggested that Dhaliwal did recall the conversation. But Dhaliwal said he was "positively sure" he didn't speak to Chang.

Chang has retained a lawyer and is refusing to testify, according to the defence.

'These things are fluid'

By the close of proceedings on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley had not yet reached the topic of the discrepancy between Vander Graaf's notes and Dhaliwal's memory.

He dwelt instead on the circumstances surrounding Meng's arrest. 

Meng Wanzhou holds a Huawei phone in her hand as she leaves B.C. Supreme Court during a break from a hearing Tuesday. The RCMP and CBSA officers involved in her 2018 arrest are testifying. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

From the outset, Vander Graaf seemed to echo previous testimony in which RCMP officers have stated they were mainly concerned about safety considerations and ensuring CBSA officers were able to carry out their duties in an area that was under their jurisdiction.

The day before the arrest, she says she spoke with her supervisor, acting Insp. Peter Lea, who favoured boarding the plane directly in order to arrest Meng the moment her flight landed.

Vander Graaf said she didn't think it was the kind of emergency situation that would necessitate officers making the arrest on the plane.

She characterized Lea's idea as a "strong" suggestion.

"These things are fluid and other information arises," she said. "So I would suggest a course of action, but if there was a reason to change that then that would be fine."

In his testimony, Dhaliwal said he didn't see why Meng couldn't have been arrested as she walked off the plane, leaving the CBSA to conduct their examination after she had been cautioned of her rights. 

The defence has repeatedly suggested that Canadian authorities deliberately delayed the execution of the warrant —which called for Meng to be arrested "immediately" — so the CBSA could gather information illegally for the FBI.

Meng's legal team will have a chance to make those arguments at a hearing on abuse of process sometime next spring.

Those proceedings were originally scheduled for February, but on Tuesday, the Crown said they anticipated a delay which might involve the calling of even more witnesses to respond to the evidence currently being heard.

Meng has denied the allegations against her.

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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