British Columbia

Final RCMP witness testifies as Meng Wanzhou extradition hearing looks toward 2021

After more than a month of testimony, the last of the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency employees involved in the events surrounding Meng Wanzhou’s arrest took the stand Monday to give evidence related to the Huawei executive’s extradition hearing.

IT specialist says email search shows RCMP officer didn't send anything to FBI after crucial date

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is seen outside B.C. Supreme Court last Friday. She has been listening to the testimony of the officers involved in her arrest. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

After more than a month of testimony, the last of the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency employees involved in the events surrounding Meng Wanzhou's arrest took the stand Monday to give evidence related to the Huawei executive's extradition hearing.

RCMP information technologist Jayson Allen said he was asked to search through emails of a retired staff sergeant who has been accused by the defence of sharing technical information from Meng's electronic devices with American authorities.

But Allen said the records showed former Staff Sgt. Ben Chang did not send any emails to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation on or after Dec. 4, 2018 — the day a colleague opened and photographed the details of Meng's laptop, tablet and phones at the request of the FBI.

Chang, who now lives in Macau, has said in an affidavit that he did not send the information to the FBI's legal attache. He is refusing to testify and has hired his own lawyer.

The last witness

Allen's testimony wraps up nearly five weeks of evidence related to the actions of the various agencies involved in Meng's arrest at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018.

U.S. authorities want to extradite Meng to New York to face charges of fraud and conspiracy for allegedly lying to an HSBC executive about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

The RCMP took pictures and recorded technical information from Meng Wanzhou's laptop along with her phones and other electronic devices. Her lawyers claim the details were sent to the FBI. (B.C. Supreme Court)

Prosecutors claim HSBC was placed at risk of loss and prosecution by relying on Meng's assurances to continue clearing financial transactions for the Chinese telecommunications giant.

The extradition hearing itself is scheduled to take place next spring. The witness testimony will be used as evidence to bolster defence claims that the case should be brought to a halt because of alleged violations of Meng's rights.

The 48-year-old's lawyers claim the FBI directed the RCMP and CBSA to coordinate their efforts so that Meng was subjected to an immigration exam without a lawyer before her arrest. 

A CBSA officer has admitted to handing Meng's phone passcodes to the RCMP in violation of information sharing protocols. 

And the defence has seized on a note recorded by another RCMP officer, indicating that a colleague told her Chang had sent Meng's technical information to the FBI.

Blind copies not recorded?

Allen said his records only turned up one email from Chang's account to the fbi.gov domain — sent the day after Meng was arrested.

That doesn't fit with the timeline suggested by the defence in previous court filings.

CBSA officers asked Meng for the passcodes for her phones when they seized her electronic devices. They later passed those codes in error to the RCMP. (B.C. Supreme Court)

In cross-examination, Allen told Meng's lawyer that his search didn't include emails sent from Chang's personal email account. He said he also could not confirm emails that might have been blind copied to an outside recipient.

Next month, Meng's lawyers have promised to give the judge overseeing the extradition, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, an "aide memoire" outlining their theory of how the arrest played out — and why they say it was wrong.

Shortly after, the Crown is expected to provide a reply justifying the RCMP's decision to let the CBSA question Meng before her arrest as routine given the agency's role as a gatekeeper for the border. 

Both sides will provide more detailed legal submissions going into a hearing, which is expected to begin at the end of April 2021.

A new line of argument

The Crown and defence will meet with Holmes next Wednesday to hash out a schedule which is likely to change with the introduction of new arguments and additional evidence.

Meng's lawyers planned to file a new — fourth — line of argument Monday in relation to alleged violations of their client's rights.

Michael Spavor, left, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, are in Chinese custody, both having been charged with spying. (The Associated Press/International Crisis Group/The Canadian Press)

The other three areas of attack concern Meng's arrest, the defence's contention Meng is being used as a bargaining chip in a U.S. trade war with China, and an allegation the U.S. deliberately misled Canada by omitting key facts from the documents provided to justify extradition.

The substance of the latest argument has not yet been revealed.

A lawyer for Meng said on Monday the Crown also plans to file new documents to supplement the record of the case before Holmes — all of which is likely to result in further legal wrangling as the high-profile case moves forward.

Events outside the court may also play a role in the ultimate resolution of the case.

Two Canadians recently marked their second anniversary of imprisonment in China for what most observers believe was retaliation for Meng's arrest.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor have been charged with spying, though China has not provided any evidence to back up the accusations.

The Wall Street Journal and Reuters also recently published reports suggesting Meng is in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve the charges.

Meng has denied the allegations against her, but the news organizations claim that a possible deal would see the charges either deferred or dropped in exchange for an admission of wrongdoing.

Neither Meng nor her legal team have commented on the reports and the subject of a possible deal has not arisen in the Canadian court proceedings.

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 the justice system extensively.

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