British Columbia

Crown claims 'there is no misconduct' in Meng Wanzhou extradition proceedings

The top lawyer for Canada's Department of Justice told the judge overseeing Meng Wanzhou's extradition proceeding Tuesday there has been no misconduct that could have jeopardized the Huawei executive's right to a fair trial.

Hearing in high-profile case on formal extradition request set to begin Wednesday

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou attends B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver where extradition proceedings are entering their final stages. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The top lawyer for Canada's Department of Justice told the judge overseeing Meng Wanzhou's extradition proceeding Tuesday that the Huawei executive's right to a fair trial has not been jeopardized by misconduct.

On the eve of the beginning of a hearing on the merits of the high-profile extradition request itself, Robert Frater urged B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes not to grant Meng's request for a stay of proceedings.

Despite four separate lines of alleged violations of Meng's rights levelled by the defence over months of hearings, Frater told Holmes "there is no misconduct to accumulate."

"No person has enjoyed a fairer hearing than Ms. Meng," Frater said at a later point in his submissions.

Meng is Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of Huawei's founder, Ren Zhengfei.

The U.S. wants the 49-year-old rendered to New York to face charges of fraud related to allegations she lied to an HSBC executive about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

In this courtroom sketch from March 2021, Crown lawyer Robert Frater urges Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes not to toss the extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou. (Felicity Don)

Prosecutors claim that HSBC relied on Meng's alleged misrepresentations in deciding to continue handling Huawei's financial transactions, risking loss and prosecution for breaching the same set of sanctions.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018, after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong.

She spent a week behind bars before being released on $10 million bail, in an arrangement that sees her tracked by a GPS ankle monitor and security guards who follow her outside curfew hours when she is restricted to her home.

The extradition request has roiled relations between Canada and China, which has repeatedly called for Meng's release.

Observers have drawn a direct line between Meng's situation and the detention in the days following her arrest of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who have since faced closed-door trials for spying.

Frater argued against tossing Meng's extradition hours after a Chinese court upheld the death penalty against Robert Schellenberg, a B.C. man arrested for drug smuggling in 2014.

On Tuesday night, Spavor was found guilty of spying and illegally providing state secrets to other countries, and sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Chinese court. He is also being ordered deported, though it was not immediately clear if that will happen before or after the 11 year prison sentence is served.

'Your job is to look at the actual words'

Meng's lawyers claim Holmes can consider allegations of abuse of process both individually or cumulatively to conclude that there has been a systemic problem in the way she has been treated.

They claim U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to use her as a bargaining chip in a trade war with China; that her rights were violated by RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers at the time of her arrest; that the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of its case and that the U.S. is acting beyond its jurisdiction.

Michael Kovrig, left, and Michael Spavor, right, were detained by China in the wake of charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Both men have been accused of spying. A verdict in Spavor's case is expected later this week. (The Canadian Press, The Associated Press)

On Monday, defence lawyer Richard Peck accused Trump of suggesting that Meng was being held "ransom" to American economic interests.

Frater said the facts don't back up that claim.

"No words like 'ransom' or 'bargaining chip' have been used by requesting state officials — they were used by my friends," Frater told the judge, referring to Meng's legal team.

"We agree with them that words have power, but your job is to look at the actual words."

The one area of misconduct the Crown has conceded is a point at which the CBSA gave the RCMP passwords to Meng's electronic devices.

The Crown has contended that the officer in question made a mistake, and that Meng's lawyers have failed to prove that the misstep has in any way threatened the extradition proceedings.

'What ulterior purpose could it possibly be?'

Frater accused the defence of backing away from initial accusations suggesting Meng was the victim of a "covert criminal investigation" carried out by the CBSA and the RCMP at the behest of the FBI.

Without that claim, he said, Meng's lawyers have nothing but an assortment of facts in search of a unifying theory.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou wears a GPS monitoring bracelet on her ankle as part of her bail conditions. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"What ulterior purpose could it possibly be?" Frater asked.

"It is unreasonable to think that Canadian law enforcement officers ... would of their own volition, without direction or instruction from the criminal investigators in the U.S., conspire to abuse Ms. Meng's rights."

The Crown lawyer walked Holmes through a series of considerations she would have to determine before deciding that any misconduct should result in a stay of proceedings — including the impact on Meng.

"Being charged with serious offences necessarily brings restrictions on liberty," he said.

"Though the restrictions on liberty faced by applicant in this case are certainly much lesser restrictions than those faced by anyone who is actually detained."

Frater concluded by noting that fraud is a serious charge and that while a bank may not make a sympathetic victim, it is in society's interest to see the case go ahead.

Both the defence and the Crown will return to court Wednesday for the first day of Meng's formal extradition hearing.

The proceeding is supposed to be speedy and is not supposed to be a trial. The judge will weigh a record of the case certified by prosecutors to show that evidence and witnesses will be in place to proceed with a trial if Meng is rendered to the United States.

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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