British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers claim extradition would violate international law

Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou claim Canada would be violating international law if it sent the Huawei executive to the United States to face charges of fraud and conspiracy.

Huawei executive's defence team say U.S. can't punish foreign nationals for extraterritorial actions

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou appears at a hearing related to her extradition. Her lawyers claim that Canada would be breaching international law if she were to be sent to the United States to face trial. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou claim Canada would be violating established international law if it sent the Huawei executive to the United States to face charges of fraud and conspiracy.

In court documents released Friday, Meng's lawyers claim Canada can't be complicit in an attempt by American authorities to punish a foreign national for actions that have no real connection to the United States.

The argument represents the defence team's latest bid to bring a halt to extradition proceedings against the 48-year-old. 

And it relies on a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that found a B.C. mining company could be sued for alleged violations at a mine in Eritrea to make its case.

"As customary international law is part of the law of Canada, it would be an abuse of this court's process, compromising the integrity of the Canadian judicial system to order committal based on an extradition request that is contrary to such laws," the argument reads.

"If it did so, Canada would be complicit in breaching customary international law."

'There is no connection'

Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer, was arrested on an extradition warrant at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018, after landing on a flight from Hong Kong en route to Mexico City and a conference in Argentina.

She is accused of lying to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary that was accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Meng Wanzhou is accused of lying to an HSBC executive about Huawei's control of a subsidiary. (Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg)

HSBC allegedly relied on Meng's assurances to decide that it would continue handling financial transactions for the Chinese telecommunications giant.

Because those transactions meant Huawei's money would pass — at least electronically — through the U.S. currency system, prosecutors claim HSBC was in danger of loss and prosecution for violating the same set of sanctions.

Backed by a series of opinions from international legal experts, Meng's lawyers claim the U.S. has no jurisdiction to subject a Chinese national to rules rejected by other countries for actions that took place outside the United States with a non-U.S. executive of an English bank.

"There is no connection," the defence states in its submissions.

"None of (Meng's) alleged conduct occurred in whole or in part in the U.S. or had any effect there."

'International law is also the law of Canada'

Meng is slated to appear in B.C. Supreme Court next Wednesday to discuss the road ahead for the extradition proceedings, which are most likely to begin in the spring of 2021.

Her lawyers are already trying to have the case thrown out for three different types of alleged abuse of process: a violation of Meng's rights at the time of her arrest, her alleged use as a bargaining chip in a trade war between the U.S. and China and a claim the U.S. deliberately misled Canada by omitting facts that undermine the strength of the case.

The 46-page submission on international law opens with a quote from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last February that paved the way for a lawsuit to continue against B.C.-based Nevsun Resources.

Meng Wanzhou sports Jimmy Choo pumps and a GPS ankle monitor. The Huawei executive is under a form of house arrest. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Workers at an Eritrean mine owned by the company claim they were beaten, punished and forced to work in harsh and dangerous conditions. 

Canada's highest court didn't rule on the question of whether Nevsun was responsible, but the judges said the workers' lawsuit could go forward.

"Customary international law is also the law of Canada," wrote Justice Rosalie Abella.

"The fact that customary international law is part of our common law means that it must be treated with the same respect as any other law."

'Repugnant to society's sense of fairness'

In the Meng case, her lawyers argue that the same set of internationally respected laws means a state like the U.S. can't punish foreign nationals for actions that take place overseas and that have no real impact or effect within its borders.

Her lawyers claim that prosecuting Meng, "without notice in 2013 that her conduct in Hong Kong might be subject to U.S. criminal law by operation of US sanctions laws, is repugnant to society's sense of fairness."

Meng is living under a form of house arrest in one of two multi-million dollar mansions she owns on Vancouver's Westside. She wears a GPS ankle monitor and is trailed by security guards around the clock as part of her release on $10 million bail.

The latest court filings make no mention of recent news reports from the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, which claimed Meng is in the process of negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice that could see the case resolved.

According to the reports, a deal would see Meng admit to some wrongdoing in exchange for an agreement to defer or drop the charges. 

Meng has denied the allegations against her.


Jason Proctor


Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.


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?