British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou lawyer claims U.S. record of fraud case against Huawei exec 'manifestly unreliable'

A lawyer for Meng Wanzhou wants the judge overseeing the Huawei executive’s extradition case to see evidence he claims will show the U.S. account of Meng's alleged crimes is misleading.

Crown urges judge not to turn extradition proceeding into trial by admitting defence evidence

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home for the first day of a week-long hearing in B.C. Supreme Court. The U.S. wants Meng extradited to New York. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A lawyer for Meng Wanzhou wants the judge overseeing the Huawei executive's extradition case to see evidence he claims will show the U.S. account of Meng's alleged crimes is misleading.

At the first day of a week-long B.C Supreme Court hearing, Frank Addario said the record of the case that prosecutors provided to the court is "manifestly unreliable" because it fails to mention that bank officials were fully aware of facts Meng is accused of trying to hide.

Meng, who is Huawei's chief financial officer, is charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York.

She is accused of lying to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in 2013 by using a PowerPoint presentation to convince him Huawei had no control over SkyCom — a firm accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

The Crown claims the bank risked loss and prosecution because managers relied on the 49-year-old's alleged lies in deciding to continue handling financial transactions for Huawei.

But Addario said the documents he wants Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes to consider will show that a global relationship manager for HSBC was fully aware of the complicated relationship between the telecommunications giant and its subsidiaries.

"Once you see all of this evidence … the picture that emerges is a different picture of HSBC employees generally and the decision makers," Addario told Holmes.

Meng sits behind defence lawyer Frank Addario as he argues that new evidence should be included as part of the extradition proceedings against his client. (Felicity Don)

'Limited weighing of the evidence'

The application to cite additional evidence preceded arguments the defence is expected to make later this week in a bid to have the case tossed because of alleged threats by former U.S. president Donald Trump's to use Meng as a pawn in a global trade war.

In order to expedite extradition proceedings the record of the case provided to the court in order to render a person to another country is held to be presumptively reliable. 

A judge is supposed to consider whether — on first view — the requesting state has made a case for prosecution, but is not supposed to conduct a full trial. 

According to one of Holmes' earlier rulings, she can't consider the general strength of the case, but can conduct a "limited weighing of the evidence."

The defence can argue to include its own evidence if it will show the record of the case is unreliable — but judges won't generally admit evidence that speaks to the credibility of witnesses, or offers alternate inferences of the facts like a trial defence.

'Manifestly unreliable and misleading'

Addario said the U.S. record of the case says Meng claimed SkyCom was free of Huawei's control — because the company was sold to a third party called Canicula Holdings when in reality, Huawei held the purse strings for Canicula's finances as well.

The defence lawyer said the evidence he hopes to include shows senior executives at Huawei and HSBC were in contact with each other and that a bank official tasked with considering risk was well aware that Canicula was under Huawei's control.

Addario said the HSBC manager knew the whole time "that SkyCom was sold to Canicula and Huawei controlled Canicula's bank accounts and thus Huawei continued to control SkyCom."

"It is manifestly unreliable and misleading to advance an allegation that he was told SkyCom was sold to a third party without telling the court that he knew the third party was controlled by Huawei," he said.

Addario said the official who met with Meng in Hong Kong in 2013 would have had to be living in a "silo" not to have been aware of what everyone else on HSBC's global risk committee knew.

The defence claims evidence will show that HSBC senior staff were aware that Huawei controlled a company accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. (Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg)

'Save it for the trial'

Crown lawyer Robert Frater urged Holmes to reject the defence application, saying Meng's lawyers were trying to force the judge outside of the "limited role" the law provides.

He said extradition is supposed to be a speedy process between countries — not a trial.

He said the kind of evidence Addario wants to introduce is "textbook" inadmissible, because it speaks to witness credibility and alternate inferences of facts.

Frater said questions about what witnesses should have known with regards to Huawei's control of SkyCom were exactly the kind of points Meng could raise on cross-examination if she is rendered to New York.

"Save it for the trial," Frater said.

The Crown lawyer also pointed out that Monday was the first day of what is scheduled to be seven weeks of extradition proceedings spread out over the next two and a half months.

He said Holmes would end up thinking he sounded like a "broken record" because he wants to bring "focus" to a well-established process Meng's lawyers are trying to bog down with applications and allegations the judge should reject.

A decision on the application is expected to take several weeks.

The hearing is expected to continue on Wednesday with arguments about Trump.

If Addario is successful, the evidence will be relied upon during a separate hearing at which the defence will claim the U.S. has misled Canada about the strength of its case. 

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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