Meng Wanzhou's lawyers back in court, will try to prove she's a victim of conspiracy
Huawei executive's lawyers will be in court this week fighting for documents in bid to toss case
Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou will appear in B.C. Supreme Court Monday in a bid for information they believe will establish that the Huawei executive was the victim of a conspiracy between U.S. and Canadian law agencies.
Meng, the chief financial officer of a global communications giant, is required to attend the proceedings in person, but she will be appearing by phone from her Vancouver home as her lawyers fight the Crown over details of the case Canada's attorney general believes wants to keep hidden from public view.
The fight may be over the technicalities of legal privilege — the right to shield sensitive communications and documentation — but observers of the case say the outcome could prove crucial in Meng's battle against extradition to the United States.
"This disclosure of who said what to who is critical," said Richard Kurland, a Vancouver immigration lawyer who has followed the proceedings closely.
"The line here is how much information ought to be revealed in order for the defence to know the case they have to meet and mount their defence, counterbalanced against the right of the state to conduct clandestine service. That's quite a difficult balance in a case like this."
Wanted for fraud and conspiracy
The U.S. wants Meng sent to New York to faces charge of fraud and conspiracy in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC banker in Hong in 2013 about Huawei's control of a company accused of violating American economic sanctions against Iran.
Prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng's alleged lies to continue working with Huawei, banks were in danger of breaching the same set of sanctions, risking fines and prosecution.
Meng, 48, has denied the allegations. Her lawyers plan to argue that the American Federal Bureau of Investigation conspired with the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and others at the time of her arrest at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, 2018, to mount a "covert criminal investigation."
According to court documents, the Crown released about "400 documents spanning between 1,200 and 1,500 pages" in February in response to an order from Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, the judge overseeing the case.
The Crown wants to redact all or part of half those documents, and has also come up with a list of other documents it believes should be wholly withheld because of public interest immunity or privilege attached to conversations between solicitors and their clients.
Holmes's initial order for the release of the documents in question followed two weeks of hearings last December, during which the defence was able to establish an "air of reality" to its claims that Meng's rights were breached.
Her lawyers argued that instead of an initial plan that would have seen the RCMP arrest her on a plane that had just arrived from Hong Kong, as directed by the extradition warrant, they opted to wait for three hours while CBSA officers detained Meng, questioned her without a lawyer, and took her electronic devices.
The Crown later admitted handing the RCMP the passcodes for Meng's phones by accident.
Alleged abuse of process
The defence has accused the RCMP of recording technical information and serial numbers from her laptop, phones and tablet and passing it to the FBI, in violation of Canada's Extradition Act.
The documents Meng's lawyers requested concerned communications between various government agencies in Canada and the U.S. in the days preceding and following her arrest, as well as plans pertaining to her arrest and information sharing.
To some degree, this week's hearings are expected to be a replay of proceedings held in federal court last month in which the Crown sought to withhold information in CSIS documents based on national security concerns.
A judge has yet to rule on those applications.
The first day of the privilege hearings in B.C. Supreme Court is expected to happen in public. Dates set aside for the rest of the week will likely occur behind closed doors.
The arguments around alleged collusion between agencies are one of three lines of challenge the defence ultimately plans to make in a bid to have the case tossed.
Meng's lawyers also claim she is being used as a political pawn by U.S. President Donald Trump, and that the U.S. misrepresented crucial facts of the case against her in the initial set of documents used to justify her arrest for extradition.
Although the court has adopted a streamlined schedule, Holmes is not likely to reach a conclusion on extradition until late next year. The defence still has to leap through a series of legal hurdles before having the chance to actually argue that Meng's rights were breached.
In May, Holmes handed the defence team a major setback by finding that the case against Meng met the bar for so-called "double criminality" — in that the offence she is accused of in the U.S. would also be considered as fraud had it occurred in Canada.
In the meantime, the impacts of the case continue to reverberate around the globe. Relationships between China and Canada have deteriorated, with China targeting canola and meat imports and accusing two Canadians of spying, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig.
WATCH | CBC's exlusive interview with Michael Kovrig's wife:
Both men have been held in harsh conditions in Chinese prisons since they were first detained within days of Meng's arrest.
Meng, meanwhile, has been living under a form of house arrest since she was released on $10 million bail in December. She is required to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet as part of the terms of her release and is trailed around the clock by private security guards.