British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers say bank documents prove case against Huawei exec 'fatally' flawed

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers claim internal HSBC documents prove the United States provided Canada a false narrative to justify the Huawei's executive's arrest for extradition.

Crown claims Huawei CFO trying to get judge to hold a trial instead of an extradition proceeding

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou departs her home for B.C. Supreme Court where her lawyers are fighting against U.S. attempts to extradite her to New York. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Meng Wanzhou's defence team claims internal HSBC documents prove the United States provided Canada a false narrative to justify the Huawei's executive's arrest for extradition.

At the start of a two-day hearing Tuesday, lawyer Mark Sandler told B.C Supreme Court  Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes the emails and reports Meng has obtained from the bank put her on "equal footing" with prosecutors to challenge allegations of fraud.

Sandler told Holmes the new evidence consists of reliable, contemporaneous business records that show the U.S. version of the case and the summaries of the evidence used to support it are "so defective as to compel the court to place no reliance on them."

Manifestly unreliable

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

The 49-year-old was arrested at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018 after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong, en route to Mexico City and Argentina.

Meng Wanzhou's lawyers claim that HSBC's own internal documents contradict a narrative of fraud the United States has presented against the Huawei executive. (Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg)

The U.S. wants her rendered to New York, where she faces fraud charges in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC executive in 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Prosecutors claim Meng delivered a PowerPoint later relied on by HSBC executives in deciding to continue a multi-billion dollar financial relationship with Huawei, putting the bank at risk of prosecution and loss.

Meng's lawyers want Holmes to allow them to introduce the HSBC documents when she considers arguments during the final part of extradition proceedings next month.

In order to do that, they have to convince the judge the information is capable of proving the U.S. record of the case is "manifestly unreliable" — the threshold for admission.

The record is the bedrock of the extradition process — a summary of events first provided to the RCMP to obtain an arrest warrant and later relied on in court to make the case for extradition.

As such, it's held to be presumptively reliable.

An improbable theory?

Sandler acknowledged that "it is relatively rare that the person sought wishes to place before the court the purported victim's own records to impeach the threshold reliability of the prosecution's case."

He said the documents show the case for fraud is "fatally" flawed.

Meng Wanzhou enters the court where a judge is considering an extradition request for the Huawei executive. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The U.S. claims only junior employees at HSBC were aware of the real nature of Huawei's relationship with its subsidiary — a company called Skycom.

But Sandler said the bank's documents show senior executives were "in the know" — including the person responsible for assessing the risk of continuing to do business with Huawei.

According to the defence team's written submissions, the prosecution's case "for fraud is based on the improbable theory that a global bank relied on a single line in a PowerPoint or a single PowerPoint presentation to make a business decision about one of its biggest customers."

"The new evidence shows HSBC to be the sophisticated institution it is, acting with full knowledge of Huawei's affiliates and their corporate history," the court documents state.

Best left for trial

The Crown is expected to present its arguments on Wednesday.

In written submissions, lawyers for Canada's attorney general accused Meng of persisting "in her quest to have this court try the case."

Prosecutors say the HSBC documents and questions about what key bank personnel knew or should have known should be considered at trial, not during an extradition process that is supposed to be made faster by taking the representations of a requesting state at face value.

"The evidence does not establish that they did know; indeed the documentation suggests that they did not," the Crown's argument states.

Prosecutors claim Meng's lawyers are trying to use the evidence to establish a "counter-narrative" to the U.S. version of events — which makes it inadmissible.

Sandler insisted the evidence had "nothing to do" with competing credibility claims, setting up alternative narratives, or establishing a defence that "can only be resolved at a trial."

Holmes is likely to reserve her decision.

The final part of the extradition proceeding is set to begin the first week of August and will start with the arguments about the record of the case that the defence is hoping to bolster with the HSBC documents.

The extradition proceeding will conclude with arguments on the request for extradition itself.

Holmes is likely to deliver her decision in the fall.

Meng has denied the allegations against her.

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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