British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou lawyer attacks 'shoddy' notes of RCMP, CBSA officers as 'travesty'

Meng Wanzhou’s lead defence lawyer says “shoddy” note-taking by the police and customs officers involved in the Huawei executive’s 2018 arrest amounts to a dereliction of duty.

Defence team claims CBSA brass ordered subordinates to stop creating records in high-profile case

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou attends extradition proceedings in downtown Vancouver. She is accused of fraud and conspiracy. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Meng Wanzhou's lead defence lawyer says "shoddy" note-taking by the police and customs officers involved in the Huawei executive's 2018 arrest amounts to a dereliction of duty.

Veteran defender Richard Peck read directly from the CBSA's enforcement manual during B.C. Supreme Court extradition proceedings Monday as he accused the officers who detained and grilled Meng of trying to "obscure" the true nature of what happened.

The manual deals specifically with the importance of officer notebooks, saying success in legal proceedings can depend on the "ability to recount the circumstances immediately before, during, and after an occurrence, incident or enforcement action."

"Every person involved with Ms. Meng on December 1st at the Vancouver International Airport from both the RCMP and the CBSA were well aware of the significance of what they were dealing with," Peck said.

"And yet this dictate that I have just cited was not followed."

Defence claims Charter rights violated

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

The 49-year-old is fighting extradition to New York, where she faces charges of fraud and conspiracy in relation to allegations that she lied to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Defence lawyer Richard Peck addresses the judge overseeing Meng Wanzhou's extradition proceedings as the Huawei executive looks on in this courtroom sketch. (Felicity Don)

Prosecutors claim the bank relied upon Meng's alleged misrepresentations in deciding to continue handling financial transactions for Huawei, risking loss and prosecution.

Meng's lawyers will spend this week and next continuing arguments intended to convince the judge overseeing extradition proceedings to toss the case.

They claim there are violations of Meng's Charter rights at the time of her arrest.

'It's a travesty'

Peck tore into the general note-taking practices of the officers involved, saying they represented a pattern of obfuscation with "uniform omissions."

He said none of the CBSA officers who intercepted Meng as she came off a plane from Hong Kong mentioned the existence of an earlier meeting with RCMP in which the plan for the arrest was hatched.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves court flanked by a supporter and security guards. Defence lawyers want a judge to stay the extradition proceedings. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Peck said the CBSA officers later testified that internet searches led them to conclude Meng could be a national security threat, but none of them recorded those searches at the time.

The lawyer also singled out individual officers for criticism, including the CBSA superintendent who spent 15 minutes asking Meng questions, but who recorded only a few lines of their conversation.

"It's a travesty — an inferior imitation of what a notebook should look like," Peck told the judge.

"There are problems with mere negligence if that's what is happening … It becomes much more serious if there's a deliberate determination not to take notes."

'Significant steps to cover up'

The defence claims CBSA former Pacific regional director Roslyn MacVicar instructed employees not to keep records about the Meng case in the weeks after the high-profile arrest because they would be vulnerable to access to information laws.

In her testimony last fall, MacVicar denied giving the order. But the CBSA's chief of passenger operations for the airport claimed MacVicar instructed her and an immediate supervisor to stop creating records.

Former CBSA regional general director for the Pacific Region, Roslyn MacVicar, is seen in 2014 with then Emergency Preparedness Minister Steven Blaney. MacVicar has since retired from the agency. She claims she did not order officers not to create records about Meng Wanzhou. (Public Safety Canada)

In submissions filed ahead of this week's court proceedings, Meng's lawyers claim MacVicar issued the order after learning that the CBSA officer who seized Meng's phones had given the passcodes to the RCMP.

"They took significant steps to cover up the CBSA's conduct," the defence documents read.

"Members of the CBSA who were directly involved in the planning, execution and follow up to Ms. Meng's arrest, as well as senior members of the CBSA, made a concerted effort to conceal their misconduct and the true purpose of their actions."

Peck will wrap up defence submissions on the arrest Tuesday, with the Crown response to follow.

The current block of hearings is set to last until the end of next week and will also include arguments on defence allegations that the U.S. is exceeding its jurisdiction by attempting to prosecute a Chinese citizen for actions that occurred in Hong Kong involving a British bank.

Final arguments on the case for extradition itself — a committal hearing — are scheduled to begin on April 26, along with one last allegation of abuse, concerning allegations the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of the case.

Meng has denied the allegations. 

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