British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers accuse U.S. of misleading court in extradition case

Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou claimed Monday that U.S. authorities are trying to mislead the B.C. judge overseeing the Huawei executive’s extradition hearing by providing an outline of the case against her that is riddled with holes and distortions.

Misstatements of fact, omissions in case record should result in stay of proceedings, defence says

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is fighting extradition to the United States on fraud charges. Her lawyers claim the U.S. record of the case is flawed. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou claim U.S. authorities are trying to mislead the B.C. judge overseeing the Huawei executive's extradition hearing by providing an outline of the case against her that is riddled with holes and distortions.

Meng's defence team says the allegations of "deliberate and/or reckless misstatements of fact and material omissions" in the official record of the case are so serious that the extradition proceedings should be tossed for an alleged violation of the 48-year-old's charter rights.

The new allegations were raised at a B.C. Supreme Court hearing held Monday to chart the course of the high-profile case over the coming year.

In a 10-page case management memo, Meng's lawyers claim the records — filed to justify the U.S. request to extradite the Huawei chief financial officer on charges of fraud — are "so replete with intentional or reckless error" that the only way to deal with them is a stay of proceedings.

Accused of fraud

Meng is accused of lying to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in August 2013 about Huawei's relationship with Skycom, a company prosecutors claim was violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

The U.S. claims Skycom was actually a subsidiary of Huawei and that HSBC and other banks placed themselves at risk of prosecution and financial loss by continuing to provide financing to Huawei based on Meng's reassurances.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei's billionaire founder, has denied the allegations.

Meng is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, seen here at the company headquarters in Shenzhen, China. (Aly Song/Reuters)

She was arrested at Vancouver's international airport on Dec. 1, 2018, on an extradition warrant after arriving from Hong Kong on her way to Argentina.

Meng was released on $10 million bail and has been living for the past year and a half under a form of house arrest in one of two multi-million homes she owns on Vancouver's west side.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes dealt the defence a significant blow last month by ruling that the proceedings should continue as the case met the bar for so-called "double criminality" and that Meng's alleged offence would be considered a crime had it happened in Canada.

Abuse of process

The new accusations are the latest part of a defence strategy to argue that Meng is the victim of an abuse of the legal process which violated her rights.

Her defence plans to claim that she was a victim of political interference by U.S. President Donald Trump, who indicated shortly after Meng's arrest that he would intervene in the case if it might result in a better trade deal with China.

And it also plans to claim that the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service conspired with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to mount a covert investigation against Meng when she got off the plane.

Meng is accused of lying to an executive with HSBC in Hong Kong in August 2013. But her lawyers say the record of the case doesn't tell the whole story. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

They have accused authorities of using the extraordinary powers of border agents to detain Meng before she was officially arrested, seizing her electronic goods, compelling her to give over the passwords and questioning her without a lawyer about Huawei's activities in Iran.

The Crown has filed both an original record of the case and a supplementary record of the case as a means to explain the grounds for Meng's extradition.

According to Justice Canada, those records allow the requesting state to summarize the evidence that would be available to prosecute someone if they were extradited.

Misstatements and omissions

Meng's lawyers claim the record provided before Holmes is incomplete on several fronts, starting with the summary of the PowerPoint presentation Meng is alleged to have given to the HSBC executive.

They say prosecutors failed to mention that Meng told HSBC that Skycom worked with Huawei in sales and service in Iran and that Huawei conducted "normal business activities" in Iran and provided civilian telecommunications activities.

The defence team says the omissions show Meng gave the bank the facts it needed to assess the risk of doing business with Huawei.

Meng poses for pictures with friends on the steps of the B.C. Supreme Court ahead of a crucial court loss in May. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

They also claim that the record of the case says only "junior" HSBC employees knew about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom when in fact "it is inconceivable that any decision to modify or terminate HSBC's relationship with Skycom or Huawei would not have been reviewed by the most senior management at HSBC."

They also point to the fact that HSBC had its own deferred prosecution agreement at the time with the U.S. Department of Justice which saw the bank pay a $1.9 billion fine for misconduct that included other violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

As part of that deal, HSBC promised to adopt American anti-money laundering standards.

The defence lawyers say that any potential violation of that agreement by a client would have been addressed by the most senior people at HSBC, not junior employees.

The defence team also accuses the U.S. of claiming HSBC extended $900 million to Huawei following Meng's alleged lies, when the bank's portion of that amount was actually $80 million. 

They also say prosecutors failed to mention that Huawei never used the cash.

And finally, Meng's lawyers claim that the record of the case is "highly misleading" because it doesn't say that HSBC had the ability to process some of the transactions in question without touching the U.S. banking system — which is the grounds through which the U.S. claims jurisdiction.

'Blistering' pace

The claims around abuse of process were originally supposed to be heard in advance of a hearing into the sufficiency of the evidence needed for Meng to be extradited.

But Holmes suggested that the new allegations about the record of the case meant that she might need to hear arguments on the evidence itself before she could make up her mind about any alleged abuse of process connected to it.

The defence team said it preferred to stick to the old plan, which one lawyer said it has been preparing for at a "blistering" pace.

The defence also said that if the allegations didn't lead to a stay, it might lead to certain redactions from the record of the case, which could alter the judge's understanding of the facts.

The current schedules under consideration include significant hearings to be held both this fall and next spring.

The lawyers will meet with the judge again next Tuesday to discuss the plans further.

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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