British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou claims delay in extradition case needed to review documents that could turn case 'on its head'

Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou want to delay the final weeks of extradition proceedings against the Huawei executive so they can review documents they believe will prove the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of fraud allegations against their client.

Huawei exec's lawyers ask Canada's AG to carry out independent investigation into alleged wrongdoing

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home for B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, where her lawyers are arguing for a delay in extradition proceedings. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou want to delay the final weeks of extradition proceedings against the Huawei executive so they can review documents they believe will prove the U.S. misled Canada about the strength of fraud allegations against their client.

In documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Meng's defence lawyers say they need time to sift through reams of sealed HSBC documents released last week by a Hong Kong court.

They also cite documents filed in New York by Meng's U.S. legal team indicating that recent facts disclosed in the American criminal case will "turn on its head the allegation at the core of the extradition proceeding" — that Meng defrauded HSBC.

Meng's lawyers say they've written to Attorney General David Lametti saying he has a duty to independently investigate allegations of foreign state misconduct raised by their U.S. counterparts.

"This adjournment is necessary to ensure fundamental fairness," the head of Meng's legal team, Richard Peck, told the judge overseeing the case Monday.

Accused of fraud and conspiracy

The defence team wants to delay the start of the final block of hearings until Aug. 3.

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

She was arrested at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018, after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong for what was supposed to be a layover en route to Latin America. 

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

A logo of HSBC is displayed outside a branch at the financial Central district in Hong Kong. Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is accused of lying to one of the bank's executives. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Prosecutors claim that HSBC relied on a PowerPoint presentation by Meng to conclude that it was safe to continue handling financial transactions for Huawei.

As a result, they claim HSBC risked prosecution for violating the same set of sanctions at a time when the bank was already subject to the strict terms of a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. for previous sanctions breaches.

Meng's lawyers were scheduled to begin a fourth and final set of arguments next week alleging abuse of process in the case.

They claim the U.S. omitted material from the record of the case provided to justify Meng's extradition in order to make the case look stronger than it is.

'Urgent need to adhere to the schedule'

The Crown objects to any further delay of proceedings.

In a response filed with the court, lawyers for Canada's attorney general say there is an "urgent need to adhere to the schedule."

The Crown claims there is no need for Attorney General David Lametti to conduct an independent investigation into allegations Meng Wanzhou's U.S. lawyers have made about foreign state misconduct. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

"The proceedings have attracted enormous public interest and this court has invested considerable resources in ensuring that the case progress as expeditiously as possible," the response says.

The Crown says there is no need for Lametti to order an investigation into the allegations made by Meng's U.S lawyers, in part because they are made by parties "aligned in interest with the person sought for extradition."

The Crown also accuses Meng's lawyers of trying to obtain a "trial-like standard of disclosure" for the extradition proceeding, which is supposed to determine whether, taken at face value, the U.S. record of the case would warrant a trial if it were held in Canada.

"By investigating and litigating such matters in Canada, these proceedings would be transformed into a trial of the issues, contrary to consistent Supreme Court of Canada authority holding that extradition courts do not hold trials," the Crown documents say.

Threat of COVID-19 variant spread

In previous court filings, the defence team has claimed that senior executives at HSBC were aware of the relationship between Skycom and Huawei and that they did not rely on Meng's assurances in deciding to continue clearing financial transactions.

In parallel proceedings, Meng's lawyers in the U.K., the U.S. and Hong Kong have been pursuing disclosure of documents that they believe will undermine the prosecution case. 

In recent weeks, Huawei's U.S. legal team filed a letter with the court there claiming that the disclosure they have received so far shows that the U.S. Department of Justice has "not been candid with the Canadian courts."

Based on that letter, Meng's Canadian lawyers say it is reasonable to infer that the documents released in Hong Kong last week will show the allegations contained in the U.S. record of the case about HSBC's actions and knowledge in relation to Meng, Huawei and Skycom may be based on unreliable statements.

The three-week block of hearings originally scheduled to begin Apr. 26 was slated to end in a hearing on the extradition request itself, with a final decision expected in the following months.

In requesting the delay, Meng's lawyers also cite concerns about the rapid spread of COVID-19 variants, which they say present a particular threat to members of her team flying in from Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.

The Crown claims the court has already managed the threat of COVID-19, but says the proceedings could continue as scheduled through telephone and video if the judge decides the pandemic is enough of a threat.

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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