A Canadian government lawyer urged a B.C. judge hearing the extradition case of Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou to be respectful of the United States in assessing how it prepared the evidence against her.
The U.S. has an extradition treaty with Canada, and extradition law presumes that the evidence it summarizes for Canadian authorities is reliable and compiled in good faith. Ms. Meng’s legal team has argued that the U.S. – including former president Donald Trump – committed multiple instances of misconduct. It has asked Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court to declare an abuse of process and throw out the case.
The defence team said last week that the judge is the only check on the conduct of the state requesting an extradition. Taken individually or together, it said, the instances of misconduct require a stay of the proceedings, to protect the Canadian justice system’s integrity and a fair process for Ms. Meng. Among the allegations: that the U.S. deliberately misled the Canadian justice system by omitting key information pointing toward Ms. Meng’s innocence on the fraud charge against her. (The chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. is charged with misrepresenting her company’s operations to a global bank, HSBC, in an attempt to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.)
But Robert Frater, a lawyer for Canada’s Attorney-General, which is representing the U.S. Justice Department, said the judge should be cautious when assessing U.S. conduct in the case.
“The court has to be circumspect in impugning the good faith of our extradition partners,” he told Associate Chief Justice Holmes.
He said the only state misconduct was a mistake by Canada Border Services Agency officials in giving Ms. Meng’s electronic passwords to the RCMP. Ms. Meng’s legal team had argued that there were 34 instances of misconduct by the U.S. and Canada, and that neither government had shown contrition.
But Mr. Frater said, “There is no need for contrition by officials on either side of the border because there is no misconduct.”
Mr. Trump said shortly after Ms. Meng’s arrest that he would “certainly intervene” in the case if necessary for a trade deal with China. On Monday, Ms. Meng’s lead lawyer, Richard Peck, called that a “threat” and likened it to holding Ms. Meng for ransom.
But Mr. Frater said there was “nothing approaching a threat,” and that “no words like ‘ransom’ or ‘bargaining chip’ have been used by requesting state officials.” In any event, he said, Mr. Trump’s remarks were in “stark contrast” to those of U.S. trade and prosecution officials. U.S. President Joe Biden and Attorney-General Merrick Garland have not used similar language, showing no need for a stay, he said.
Tony Paisana, a lawyer for Ms. Meng, said the Canadian Attorney-General’s failure to repudiate Mr. Trump’s comments added to the justification for a stay.
In the spring, Ms. Meng’s lawyers obtained documents from HSBC, through an agreement in a Hong Kong court, showing that the summary of evidence known as the record of the case had left out words that the lawyers deemed crucial to understanding Ms. Meng’s discussions with HSBC.
But Mr. Frater said, “not everything can be included,” and the U.S. had been fair in preparing the case records.
“Calling something an abuse of process does not make it so,” he said, adding, “no person sought [for extradition] has enjoyed a fairer hearing than Ms. Meng.”
If the judge does find misconduct, she would have to take into account the public interest in putting Ms. Meng on trial before granting a stay, and so Mr. Frater stressed the seriousness of the allegation: “The offence of fraud is intended to ensure honesty in commercial dealings.”
Canada is caught between the United States and China in the case. China detained two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, shortly after the RCMP arrested Ms. Meng on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of the U.S. Ms. Meng is free on bail.
Most extradition requests made by the U.S. are successful, government data show. The standard in extradition cases is similar to that in preliminary hearings: enough evidence to send an accused on to trial.
On Wednesday, the “committal” phase of the extradition hearing begins, and the evidence against Ms. Meng will be summarized in the B.C. Supreme Court. Ms. Meng’s legal team is trying first to make the case that the process itself was abusive. Associate Chief Justice Holmes will decide on that issue at the same time as she rules on the evidence – probably some months away.
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