British Columbia·New

Meng Wanzhou lawyers accuse Crown of using 'shortcut' to fight abuse allegation

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers accused Canada's attorney general Friday of bending the rules at the high-profile extradition proceeding in order to get evidence in front of the judge that counters allegations U.S. officials violated the Huawei executive's rights.

High-profile case resumes next week with defence pressing judge to punish U.S. by tossing case

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou arrives at her extradition hearing at B.C. Supreme Court. The U.S. wants Meng rendered to New York to face fraud and conspiracy charges. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers accused Canada's attorney general Friday of bending rules at the high-profile extradition proceeding in order to counter allegations U.S. officials violated the Huawei executive's rights.

Meng's defence team claims the Crown used a legal "shortcut" to introduce evidence designed to cover the tracks of prosecutors accused of misleading the court by omitting details that undermine the charges against the Huawei chief financial officer.

The accusations came on the final day of a portion of the extradition hearing set aside to consider allegations of breaches of rights guaranteed to Meng under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Crown suggested Meng's gold-plated defence team shouldn't "lightly question" the motives of U.S. prosecutors. But defence lawyer Frank Addario told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that ship has sailed.

"We are well beyond that in this case," Addario told Holmes.

"We are well beyond speculation."

'Normal and controllable'

Meng — who is the daughter of Huawei's billionaire founder — faces charges of fraud and conspiracy in New York in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC banker about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

The U.S. claims the bank relied on Meng's misrepresentations in deciding to continue handling financial transactions for the Chinese telecommunications giant, putting HSBC at risk of loss and criminal liability.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou sits behind defence lawyer Frank Addario in an artist's rendering of extradition proceedings earlier this year. Addario accused the Crown of using a "shortcut" to get evidence in front of the judge. (Felicity Don)

Meng has denied the allegations.

The heart of the case is built on a PowerPoint presentation Meng gave the banker in which she allegedly gave assurances Huawei was nothing more than a business partner of Skycom — a firm that allegedly violated U.S. sanctions by offering to sell Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran's largest mobile phone operator.

In previous hearings, the defence has successfully argued that the copy of the PowerPoint filed with the court omitted a slide that said "Huawei's engagement with Skycom is normal and controllable."

The defence contends the omission of the word "controllable" is proof the U.S. tried to hide facts that contradict its theory of the case.

Meng's lawyers also convinced Holmes to allow an affidavit from a former White House official who claims there was no risk to HSBC — and as a result no possibility of fraud by Meng — because the U.S. has never imposed criminal or civil sanctions on a financial institution for being deceived by a third party into violating economic sanctions.

'That you cannot do'

Friday's arguments revolved around documents the Crown has filed with the court detailing the narrative of the allegations against Meng and the evidence and witnesses U.S. prosecutors claim will be available should she be sent for trial in New York.

The defence said the so-called "record of the case" certified by the Crown is accepted as evidence through the extradition process.

The allegations against Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou concern alleged lies about the Chinese telecommunication giant's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Addario accused the Crown of using the second of two supplementary records filed with the court in order to respond to the defence's claims that the original record was deliberately designed to mislead.

The document refers to an official with the U.S. Department of the Treasury who is expected to testify that the financial transaction in question could have gotten HSBC into trouble.

It doesn't mention the word "controllable" from the PowerPoint, but Addario said it does claim the presentation left the HSBC executive with the impression "Skycom worked with Huawei, not that it was part of Huawei."

Addario said the Crown should have gone through a more onerous process to get the evidence admitted, including making the treasury expert available for cross-examination.

He asked Holmes to give less weight to the document when it comes to considering whether Meng's rights were abused, pointing to a judge's decision in a case the defence claims is comparable.

"He said that you cannot do, because that gives you permission to summarize evidence and use hearsay to respond to direct evidence of an abuse of process," Addario said.

No evidence of prosecutor's intent

Crown lawyer Monika Rahman urged Holmes to give full weight to the document. She said it was not drawn up to respond to the claims of abuse.

"The second supplemental record of the case has no evidence that speaks to the propriety of the conduct of the requesting state," Rahman said.

"[It does not] speak to the prosecutor's intent in how they summarized the case."

The extradition proceedings will continue next week with the defence arguing the judge should stay the proceedings because of the cumulative weight of what they claim are a series of abuses of Meng's rights.

In addition to claiming the U.S. misled Canada, Meng's lawyers have also argued that former U.S. president Donald Trump interfered in the case, that their client's rights were violated at the time of her arrest and that the U.S. is violating international law by targeting a Chinese citizen for actions that took place in Hong Kong.

Next week, the defence plans to argue that if any one of those alleged abuses is not enough on its own to convince Holmes to toss the case, she can consider their combined impact on the reputation of the Canadian justice system.

The Crown has denied any impropriety and says the defence allegations have not risen to the level that would demand a stay.

Arguments on the extradition request itself are expected in the coming weeks. Holmes will then likely reserve her decision until the fall.

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 the justice system extensively.

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