- The first round of Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearings concluded Thursday, after the Huawei executive’s defence team and the Crown argued over whether U.S. sanctions against Iran should factor into a Canadian decision about handing her over to American prosecutors. Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes reserved judgment and adjourned the court, leaving Ms. Meng’s fate unclear for now.
- Earlier this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ruled out trading the Huawei executive for two Canadians jailed in China. “We are a country of the rule of law and we will abide by the rule of law,” Mr. Trudeau said outside a cabinet retreat in Winnipeg on Tuesday.
What you’ve missed in court so far
What are these hearings about?
Ms. Meng’s court appearances in Vancouver this week were not a criminal trial: The charges of fraud she faces are from U.S. prosecutors, who asked their Canadian counterparts to arrest Ms. Meng in December of 2018. These hearings were to decide whether she should be extradited to the United States to be tried on those charges, which involve her employer, Huawei, allegedly using a subsidiary to sell telecom equipment in Iran, defying U.S. sanctions against that country. The U.S. prosecutors say Ms. Meng lied to American banks about Huawei’s relationship with the subsidiary, Skycom Tech, which Huawei denies it controls. Both Ms. Meng and Huawei deny any wrongdoing.
Jan. 20: ‘double criminality’
For Ms. Meng’s lawyers, the key question on the first day of hearings was about “double criminality”: whether the offence Ms. Meng is accused of in the United States would also be a crime if committed in Canada, which is a requirement under the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty. Fraud is a crime in both countries, but lead defence lawyer Richard Peck argued that, because Canada dropped its own sanctions against Iran in 2016, her actions would not be illegal here, and so the extradition should not be allowed:
Fraud is a facade. Would we be here in the absence of U.S. sanctions law? The response is no. ... It is a fiction to contend that the United States has any general interest in policing private dealings between a foreign bank and a foreign citizen on the other side of the world. However, it is the case that the United States has a global interest in enforcing its sanctions policy. Sanctions drive this case.
About two dozen protesters demanding Ms. Meng’s release amassed outside the courtroom. One of them, Vancouver actor Julia Hackstaff, later revealed that she was duped into attending by the promise of paid film-extra work, but left soon after a journalist started asking her questions and she realized it was for real:
At the moment, I still thought it was an actor or someone. I still thought, okay, maybe they want extra material from the background actors. But after two or three questions, I obviously noticed that she was a professional journalist with professional equipment, asking real questions. That’s when I totally freaked out. ... It’s a big, big lesson for me to take care of myself and ask more questions about what I’m getting myself into.
Day 2: Are we clear?
As defence arguments continued, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said she was struggling to understand details of their case. She challenged lawyer Eric Gottardi with a hypothetical question about how this would be prosecuted differently if a Canadian did something that would cause financial loss to a bank, as the U.S. prosecutors allege Ms. Meng did when she dealt with American banks. Associate Chief Justice Holmes brought up other examples, such as Canada’s extradition of arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber to Germany on tax-evasion charges. Mr. Gottardi’s written answer argued that the key issue is whether dishonest acts cause harm to someone else, and in the case of the U.S. banks and Ms. Meng, he claimed no harm could have occurred to the banks because of what Ms. Meng them.
Day 3: The Canadian values test
Crown counsel Robert Frater now tried to persuade the judge that she didn’t necessarily need to take U.S. sanctions law into account when deciding the question of fraud. In an exchange with Mr. Frater, Associate Chief Justice Holmes asked whether it’s okay to extradite someone to a “foreign legal context” that was “utterly objectionable to Canadian values,” such as a fraud case involving slave labour in a regime where slavery is legal. Mr. Fraser agreed with her in a general sense, but said this was not such a case. He then cited the Schreiber tax-evasion case, which the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on in 2001. That court found it was up to the federal justice minister, not the judge at the extradition hearing, to decide if the context of a foreign law is just or not. She appeared to push back at this, saying that today, judges’ rulings are expected to take the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into account more closely.
A who’s who
In the courtroom
Meng Wanzhou: Chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom company Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. She was arrested on a stopover at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of U.S. prosecutors. Since then, she has lived under house arrest at her Vancouver mansion.
Richard Peck: The lead lawyer on Ms. Meng’s defence team. Colleagues described him to The Globe and Mail as old-fashioned, English-style barrister whose career has included some of Canada’s most challenging and complicated criminal cases.
Heather Holmes: The B.C. Supreme Court judge who is hearing Ms. Meng’s case.
Ren Zhengfei: Ms. Meng’s father and the founder of Huawei. He denies U.S. prosecutors’ accusations against his daughter and his company, but says his feud is more with Washington (which has barred U.S. companies from using Huawei products in developing 5G wireless networks) than with Canada (which has not yet decided whether to institute its own ban on Huawei technology).
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor: A Canadian ex-diplomat and businessman, respectively, who were detained in China soon after Ms. Meng’s arrest in 2018 and accused of stealing state secrets. They have been in detention for more than a year, subjected to strenuous interrogations without access to lawyers and only once-a-month access to consular services.
Dominic Barton: Canada’s ambassador to China since last September. He’s been a key figure in trying to free Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor and dissuade China from further trade penalties against Canadian canola, pork and other products in retaliation for Ms. Meng’s continued prosecution.
When will a decision be made?
The court proceedings in B.C. could take months to reach a conclusion about whether Ms. Meng’s extradition is lawful – but even that wouldn’t be the end of it. Ultimately, the decision to extradite lies with federal Attorney-General David Lametti, whose terms of reference under Section 44 of the Extradition Act say he shall refuse the extradition if it would be “unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances.” If he says yes to extradition, Ms. Meng can apply for a judicial review. If she loses, she would be sent to the United States to be tried.
The bigger political picture
The Meng case is only one way in which Canada has been caught in the middle of a Sino-American tug of war in recent years. The U.S. charges against Ms. Meng and Huawei were launched during an escalating tariff war between the United States and China, and at the time, U.S. President Donald Trump suggested he might intervene with the Justice Department on Ms. Meng’s behalf if he could secure a trade deal with Beijing. Now, there is such a trade deal, though many U.S. sanctions remain in place against Chinese products.
But the Justice Department’s case is continuing against Huawei, whose technology Washington fears could be used for surveillance or cyberwarfare. The United States and Australia have pressed other countries in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, such as Canada and Britain, to follow suit. Canada’s government is conducting an internal review and has yet to announce a decision. Huawei, meanwhile, has pinned hopes for its future on Canada, planning to relocate its research and development wings there.
The Meng case, in depth
Spavor and Kovrig
Opinion and analysis
Compiled by Globe staff
With reports from Sean Fine, Nathan VanderKlippe, Andrea Woo and Xiao Xu
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