British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou's defence wraps extradition case, arguing 'fundamental justice' demands Huawei exec's discharge

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers concluded submissions at the Huawei executive's extradition proceedings Wednesday with a final attempt to scuttle a case they claim is built on an "evidentiary vacuum."

Extradition proceedings against Huawei executive expected to conclude Wednesday after Crown response

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, (centre in white), is flanked by security guards, Huawei employees and members of her legal team as she exits B.C. Supreme Court on the day her defence made its final submissions. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers concluded submissions at the Huawei executive's extradition proceedings Wednesday with a final attempt to scuttle a case they claim is built on an "evidentiary vacuum."

More than two and a half years after Meng's arrest at Vancouver's airport, defence lawyer Eric Gottardi urged the B.C. Supreme Court judge overseeing the case to reject a bid to render Meng to New York to face fraud charges.

"Fundamental justice demands that Ms. Meng not be extradited to face trial on these legally and factually flawed allegations," Gottardi told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.

"Accordingly, we would ask you to discharge her."

One and the same entity

The defence rested after three days of detailed arguments in which four members of Meng's gold-plated legal team systematically attacked every element of the Crown's case.

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

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is overseeing extradition proceedings for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. The decision will soon rest with the judge. (Jane Wolsak)

The 49-year-old was arrested on a provisional warrant on Dec. 1, 2018, after arriving in Canada on a flight from Hong Kong for what was supposed to be a stopover on her way to Mexico City and a conference in Argentina.

She faces fraud charges in the U.S. in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong during an August 2013 meeting convened in the wake of a series of Reuters reports suggesting a Huawei subsidiary had violated U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Meng gave a Powerpoint presentation in which she claimed her company's relationship with the subsidiary — Skycom — was a  "controllable" business partnership and that Huawei operated in compliance with all sanctions.

In truth, prosecutors say, Huawei and Skycom were one and the same entity.

They claim that by relying on Meng's alleged lies to continue handling Huawei's financial transactions, HSBC placed itself at risk of loss and prosecution for ferrying sanctions-tainted funds through the U.S. banking system.

'A zero loss situation'

The Crown cast the case as a classic fraud allegation that boiled down to dishonesty in commercial dealings.

But the defence said prosecutors failed to prove Meng lied, failed to prove HSBC suffered any actual loss and failed to establish any connection between Meng's actions and the alleged harm, which is crucial to fraud.

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is accused of defrauding HSBC. Meng's lawyers claim there is no proof of any concrete loss by the bank. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

Earlier Tuesday, Gottardi's colleague Scott Fenton questioned the Crown's contention that HSBC could have suffered a "reputational risk" as a result of its dealings with Huawei and Skycom.

Fenton said the law requires loss or threatened loss in a fraud case to be concrete; lying alone is not illegal.

In Canada, fraud cases are charged as being under or over $5,000 — which Fenton said required prosecutors to quantify some amount, "grounded in evidence" of actual loss or tangible risk.

He said the law doesn't regard the loss of pure reputation as the grounds on which a fraud charge can be built, in the same way as the loss of money or property. 

"In this case, there is simply no evidence of a quantifiable or measurable risk of loss to HSBC," Fenton told Holmes.

"We are in a zero loss situation."

'The entirety of the submissions'

The judge has been an active participant in the proceedings, asking Fenton to show her the place in any of the precedent cases he relied on where it says the amount of loss "must" be quantified.

Holmes has to make her decision based on a record of the case provided by U.S. prosecutors, detailing a narrative of events, witnesses and their expected testimony.

A still from a video of Meng Wanzhou taken during her first few hours in CBSA custody on Dec. 1. 2018. More than two-and-a-half years later, Meng's lawyers have completed their submissions in her extradition case. (Submitted by B.C. Supreme Court)

She has to determine whether there would be enough evidence to send Meng to trial for fraud in Canada if her alleged offences had occurred in this country.

Gottardi told Holmes the defence was ending the case where it began, asking her not to be a "rubber stamp" — a nod to a former Supreme Court of Canada chief justice who said extradition judges could do a "limited weighing" of evidence.

"The requesting state has provided you with an inaccurate and, in parts, manifestly unreliable evidentiary record," Gottardi said.

He told Holmes the Crown was asking her to fill "evidentiary gaps" in the record with speculation and educated guesses.

"The question that you now have to decide is whether this evidentiary record that you have before you in this case, with all the evidentiary gaps and problems that we have attempted to outline, still amounts to a plausible case," Gottardi said.

"Could a jury convict to the criminal standard on the evidence that is before you. And we say the answer is no."

Subject to any questions, Gottardi said: "those are the entirety of the submissions for the person sought."

The Crown is expected to reply to the defence's submissions on Wednesday morning, after which the final word on the lengthy legal battle will rest with Holmes.

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.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now