British Columbia

Crown says ex-president Trump no longer a factor in Meng Wanzhou extradition

Canada’s attorney general says former U.S. president Donald Trump’s boasts about using Meng Wanzhou to force a better trade deal with China are irrelevant to the Huawei executive’s extradition proceedings.

Huawei executive's lawyers claim former president's threat to intervene has 'poisoned' proceedings

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general claim former U.S. President Donald Trump no longer has any ability to influence criminal proceedings against Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Both are pictured in file photos from 2020. (Leah Mills/Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)

Canada's attorney general says former U.S. president Donald Trump's boasts about using Meng Wanzhou to force a better trade deal with China are irrelevant to the Huawei executive's extradition proceedings.

In B.C. Supreme Court documents filed in advance of hearings next month, lawyers for the Crown say that since Trump is no longer in office, he has no authority to intervene in the case.

And even when he was in power, they claim there's no evidence he did try to use Meng as leverage in a trade war with China.

"This application is moot," the Crown's submissions read.

"The facts on which it is based — statements by a president no longer in office, about a possible intervention in this case that never occurred, purportedly to achieve a trade deal that has long since been successfully negotiated — have no past, present or prospective impact on these proceedings."

Accused of fraud and conspiracy

The documents were filed ahead of a string of hearings set to begin March 1. 

The first week will be devoted to arguments related to Trump and what the defence claims is misconduct worthy of having the case tossed.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her house for a court hearing in January. The 49-year-old faces possible extradition to the United States. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer, was arrested on an extradition warrant at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018, after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong.

The 49-year-old, who celebrated her birthday last week, is charged with fraud and conspiracy in relation to allegations that she lied to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng's alleged lies to continue handling financial transactions for the Chinese telecommunications giant, HSBC was at risk of loss and prosecution for breaching the same set of sanctions.

Meng has denied the allegations.

'No authority to intervene'

In documents filed last year to support their bid to free their client, Meng's lawyers claimed Trump had "poisoned" the proceedings by suggesting he might intervene.

The comments in question arose during an interview with a Reuters reporter in the weeks after Meng's arrest. At the time, the U.S was mired in a multi-billion dollar trade war with China.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump was quoted as saying he would intervene in Meng's case if it meant a better trade deal in his negotiations with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Susan Walsh/The Associated Press)

"If I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what's good for national security, I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary," Trump said.

Meng's lawyers pointed to Trump's intervention in the criminal prosecutions of his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and of longtime political advisor Roger Stone as proof that Trump wouldn't hesitate to meddle in the Meng case.

Trump was defeated in a U.S. presidential election last November, and President Joe Biden was sworn in as his successor in January.

In their response, the Crown lawyers say that if anything, Trump's intervention might have meant a "gift" of early release. But any influence he might have had on the case ended along with his term at the White House.

"The maker of the statements at issue, former president Trump, has no authority to intervene in the case due to his departure from office," the Crown's arguments read.

"During the time he was in office, there is no evidence that he did intervene; indeed the best evidence that exists, from the lead U.S. trade negotiator, was that he did not."

An 'ominous climate'

According to previously filed documents, Meng's lawyers also plan to raise statements Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made about a need to tie a U.S. trade deal to the resolution of her situation and the fate of two Canadians imprisoned in China since the weeks after her arrest.

China has accused Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur, of spying without any evidence, in what most observers believe is retaliation for Canada's role in Meng's extradition.

Michael Kovrig, left, and Michael Spavor, right, were arrested by China in the wake of charges against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and remain detained. (The Canadian Press, The Associated Press)

The defence claims that as "a bargaining chip in a global trade war, [Meng faces] intimidation regarding the ramifications her own decisions may have on others."

They say a reasonable person would believe that how Meng "defends her extradition could alter the consequences faced by the two Canadians held in China."

The Crown submissions don't mention Kovrig and Spavor, but they are skeptical of her claims that Trump created such an "ominous climate" or "oppressive politicized atmosphere" that she couldn't exercise "free decision-making."

"If that were true, it required an immediate remedy," the documents say.

"But she made a tactical choice not to bring it immediately and did nothing to seek an early hearing of the issue. By so doing, she has fatally undermined the credibility of her allegation."

Four attempts to toss case

The allegation over Trump's role is one of four separate lines of argument the defence plans to pursue in attempts to prove that Meng is a victim of an abuse of legal process.

They also claim authorities conspired to violate Meng's rights at the time of her arrest, that the U.S. is exceeding the limits of its jurisdiction by prosecuting a foreign citizen for actions that took place in Hong Kong, and that the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of its case.

The Crown is expected to file responses to arguments about Meng's rights and the jurisdiction of the case later this month. In documents filed Thursday, the Crown claims there is no evidence to suggest that the U.S. misled the court about the record of the case.

The extradition hearing itself is expected to conclude by the middle of May, after which the judge overseeing the case will make a decision on whether to commit Meng for trial in the U.S.

At that point, Canada's minister of justice would have a final say on whether the extradition should proceed.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported last December that Meng is in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice for a deal that could bring an end to the case altogether.

According to those reports, which the CBC has not independently verified, a possible resolution would see Meng admit to some wrongdoing in exchange for deferring prosecution or dropping the charges.

The subject of those negotiations has not come up in court.

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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