British Columbia

'Right needs to be done': Meng Wanzhou's lawyers make final pitch to judge

A lawyer for Meng Wanzhou made a final pitch against extradition Thursday to the B.C. Supreme Court judge tasked with weighing the Huawei executive's fate. But Richard Peck said he was asking for more than just justice.

B.C. Supreme Court judge reserves decision on Huawei executive's extradition

Meng Wanzhou walks in the rain en route to the final day of her extradition hearing, in Vancouver on Thursday. The U.S. wants the Huawei chief financial officer extradited on fraud charges. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

A lawyer for Meng Wanzhou made a final pitch against extradition Thursday to the B.C. Supreme Court judge tasked with weighing the Huawei executive's fate.

But Richard Peck told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng's defence team was asking for more than just a legal victory.

"This is the kind of case that tests our system," Peck said as he wrapped up his arguments.

"It's not so much for us a matter of standing here and saying we want to see justice done. We say right needs to be done."

Holmes concluded the four-day hearing by thanking both defence and Crown lawyers for their work and reserving her decision for a later date.

She gave no indication as to how long it might take.

Accused of lying to bank

Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018, on a stopover from Hong Kong to a conference in Argentina.

The United States wants Meng extradited for allegedly lying to HSBC about Huawei's control of a company accused of attempting to sell computer equipment to an Iranian telecommunications company.

American prosecutors argue the bank put itself at risk of fines, prosecution and the loss of reputation by relying on Meng's alleged lie to continue providing finance to the Chinese telecommunications giant.

Meng is living under house arrest in one of two multi-million dollar homes she owns in Vancouver.

As part of a $10 million bail agreement, she wears a GPS monitoring bracelet on her left ankle and is trailed everywhere by a team of security guards.

This week's hearing — which marked the first formal stage of the extradition process — was held to determine if Meng's alleged conduct would amount to a crime if it had happened in Canada at the time the U.S. gave Canada the authority to proceed with the extradition: the principle of so-called "double criminality."

Meng listens as her lawyer, Richard Peck, makes a final pitch for her freedom to Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes in B.C. Supreme Court. (Jane Wolsak/The Canadian Press)

'This is an oxymoron'

Meng's lawyers spent the first two days arguing that the whole case comes down to economic sanctions the U.S. reimposed against Iran in 2018 when it left an international deal meant to stall the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.

Canada doesn't have those same sanctions and so, the defence claims, Meng's alleged lies would be harmless north of the border because a bank in Canada wouldn't risk anything by dealing with a company that did business in Iran.

The Crown then spent half a day arguing the case was one of fraud, plain and simple, and that the issue of sanctions was essentially a red herring.

Crown lawyer Robert Frater said the central elements of fraud are a misrepresentation resulting in risk of loss.

Meng displays her GPS ankle monitoring bracelet as she arrives at court. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

And if the existence of foreign sanctions came into Holmes' decision, he said it should be as a means to understand the context of the risks that HSBC would be taking by providing finance to a company on the wrong side of U.S. law.

Peck and co-counsel Scott Fenton provided a brief reply to the Crown's arguments Thursday, taking issue with Frater's contention that fraud and risk of deprivation could still occur "where there is no possibility of loss."

"This is an oxymoron," Fenton told the judge. "No possibility of risk means no loss at all."

They also told Holmes that she could consider the value of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in making her decision — a response to the Crown's contention that weighing concerns about values associated with sanctions law was a concern for the minister of justice, not a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

'It's unique .. it's a pose'

Both the Crown and the defence say the case is unique. But as to why, they disagree.

"It's unique because in our submission, it's a pose," Peck told Holmes.

"It is a pose or posture where fraud is being tendered as the essence [of the alleged conduct] and, in fact, sanctions busting or sanctions violations is the essence ... It's unique because our standards have changed with respect to this very issue. It's extraordinary in that sense."

Holmes allowed Meng to move out of the prisoner's dock in the high-security courtroom where the hearing was held so that she could sit alongside her counsel and follow the arguments through a translator.

If Holmes decides the bar of double-criminality is not met, then the extradition proceedings will come to an end and Meng would be free to return to China, barring an appeal.

But if the Crown is successful, further court dates have been set in June for Meng to argue that she is being used as a political pawn and that her rights were violated at the time of her detention and arrest.

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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