British Columbia

Meng Wanzhou scores victory as lawyers allowed to argue U.S. tried to trick Canada

Meng Wanzhou scored a victory in her battle to fight extradition Thursday as the judge overseeing the proceedings agreed to let the Huawei executive's lawyers pursue their claim that the United States misled Canada about the basics of the case.

The judge overseeing the Huawei executive's extradition has also agreed to allow new evidence

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou poses for pictures with friends on the steps of the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver, British Columbia in May 2020. A judge has allowed her lawyers to argue that the U.S. tried to trick Canada. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Meng Wanzhou scored a victory in her battle to fight extradition Thursday as the judge overseeing the proceedings agreed to let the Huawei executive's lawyers pursue their claim that the United States misled Canada about the basics of the case.

In a ruling posted online, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said there was an "air of reality to Ms. Meng's allegations of abuse of process in relation to the requesting state's conduct."

At a hearing held last month, the chief financial officer's lawyers said they believed the evidence was strong enough to prove that the United States omitted key components of the case that undermine allegations of fraud against their client.

Holmes' ruling means Meng's lawyers will be able to include those claims as one of three lines of attack in February, when they try to convince the judge that the entire case should be thrown out for abuse of process.

In her ruling, Holmes noted that staying the proceedings against Meng was a possibility if the defence can make its case, but that she might also consider a less drastic remedy, like cutting out parts of the Crown's record deemed unreliable.

Judge rules new evidence allowed

Meng is charged with fraud and conspiracy in the United States in relation to allegations that she lied to HSBC about Huawei's relationship with a hidden subsidiary that was accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Prosecutors claim that by lying to HSBC to continue a financial relationship, Meng placed the bank at risk of loss and prosecution for breaching the same sanctions.

The U.S. claims Meng Wanzhou lied to an HSBC banker in a PowerPoint about Huawei's relationship with a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. (Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg)

As part of the extradition process, the United States provided a record of the case that includes slides from the PowerPoint presentation Meng gave an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in August 2013.

But Meng's lawyers claim the U.S. deliberately omitted two slides from the PowerPoint that showed Meng didn't mislead the bank.

And they also claim that where the U.S. said only "junior" employees knew about the real relationship between Huawei and its subsidiary, senior executives at the bank were also aware.

In her ruling, Holmes said she would allow two statements from the missing slides to be included as evidence in the extradition case. She also agreed to allow evidence about HSBC's management structure to help determine who is junior and who is not.

Rights violation issue not raised, CBSA agent testifies

Holmes released her decision even as Meng's lawyers were in court gathering evidence related to the second line of argument that there was an abuse of process: the claim that her rights were violated at the time of her arrest.

Meng was questioned by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers for three hours before she was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018, after her arrival at Vancouver's airport on a flight from Hong Kong.

A still from a video of Meng Wanzhou first few hours in CBSA custody. The defence claims her rights were violated during that time. (B.C. Supreme Court)

The defence team claims the CBSA and RCMP conspired with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation to mount a covert criminal investigation into Meng by using the border agency's extraordinary powers to question her without a lawyer.

The CBSA agent who seized Meng's phones was on the stand Thursday for his second day of testimony.

Border services officer Scott Kirkland testified that he believed there were grounds to question Meng about the possibility she might be involved in espionage. 

During his testimony Wednesday, Kirkland said that was because the CBSA's internal system has flagged her for "national security" reasons, but he admitted in cross-examination Thursday that this might not have been the case. Meng's lawyer suggested that she was only targeted because of the criminal charges.

Kirkland also said he thought the RCMP should have arrested Meng immediately, before the CBSA carried out its inquiries, because he worried about the impact of a delay on her right to obtain legal counsel.

Kirkland said he knew the high profile case would end up in court.

But he said he didn't raise the issue of possible Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations out loud. And no one else among the RCMP and CBSA officers who were present said the word "Charter."

Two weeks have been set aside in February 2021 for arguments about the record of the case and the alleged violation of Meng's rights at the time of her arrest.

The third defence claim relates to allegations that U.S. President Donald Trump has politicized the case by threatening to use Meng as a bargaining chip to get a better deal with China.

Holmes noted in her ruling that if any one of those lines of argument were proven, they might not be enough in and of themselves to derail the case, but the cumulative effect of all of them might end in a stay. 

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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