- Meng Wanzhou’s hopes of going home to China were denied on Wednesday when a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that the misconduct she’s accused of by U.S. prosecutors would also be a crime in Canada. Read the full text here. The ruling is not the end of the Huawei executive’s extradition saga: Next come hearings in June where the defence will argue Canadian authorities violated her rights when they arrested her in 2018.
- The Meng ruling comes on the 534th day of captivity for Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were detained in China in apparent retaliation for Ms. Meng’s arrest. Here’s a primer on the charges against them, which they deny, and Canada’s efforts to free them so far.
- Ottawa is now trying to assure Beijing that the outcome of the case was entirely out of its hands, and was a product of Canada’s legal system, as it braces for economic retaliation. China’s embassy in Ottawa voiced its dismay after the ruling, while the U.S. Department of Justice, whose prosecutors accuse Ms. Meng of skirting U.S. sanctions on Iran, thanked Canada for helping to bring Ms. Meng a step closer to extradition.
What is this case about?
Meng Wanzhou is a Chinese national and the chief financial officer of Huawei, a Chinese telecom company. Since late 2018, she’s been under house arrest in Vancouver, where authorities arrested her on behalf of U.S. prosecutors who accuse her of fraud. The Americans allege that Huawei used 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.
While you may have seen Ms. Meng in court several times this year, she has not faced a criminal trial. Her hearings in B.C. have been to decide whether she should be extradited to the United States to be tried.
Her first test concerned “double criminality”: whether the offences she’s accused of in the United States would also be crimes if committed in Canada, which is a requirement under the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty.
A B.C. Supreme Court ruled on May 27 that double criminality did apply, and that the more narrow interpretation put forward by Ms. Meng’s lawyers would “seriously limit Canada’s ability to fulfill its international obligations in the extradition context for fraud and other economic crimes.” The full text of that ruling is embedded below.
The next test is about her arrest by Canadian customs officials in 2018, which Ms. Meng’s lawyers argue was unlawful and violated her rights.
A who’s who
In the courtroom
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. Her 40-year career as a prosecutor and judge has included many serious cases that earned her a reputation for toughness, Globe justice writer Sean Fine explains.
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.
Backstory: Four days of hearings, four months of waiting
Jan. 20: ‘double criminality’
For Ms. Meng’s lawyers, the key question on the first day of hearings was about double criminality. Fraud is a crime in both Canada and the United States, but lead defence lawyer Richard Peck argued that, because Canada dropped its own sanctions against Iran in 2016, Ms. Meng’s 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.
Jan. 21: 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.
Jan. 22: 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.
Jan. 23: Final arguments
As the defence wrapped up its case, Mr. Peck tried to stress a distinction between “general law,” which includes crimes like sexual assault and homicide, and “political law” such as sanctions. He argued that general law is more or less the same between countries, but political law is not, and Canada is not bound by U.S. sanctions on Iran that it chose not to keep. He also argued that, in Canada, a lie only constitutes fraud if it causes economic harm, but any harm arising from Ms. Meng’s actions was due to a U.S. law not applicable in Canada.
Interlude: The pandemic hits
When Associate Chief Justice Holmes reserved her decision in January, there was no timetable for when she might make the ruling – but even if there had been, global events would have soon disrupted it. B.C. recorded its first COVID-19 case just four days after Ms. Meng’s hearings concluded, and by mid-March its lockdown measures put most in-person courtroom proceedings on hold.
Associate Chief Justice Holmes convened a special teleconference on March 30 with Ms. Meng, her defence team and the Crown prosecutors to figure out how to proceed. One of Ms. Meng’s lawyers, David Martin, suggested that she should only be required to come to court in person if the judgment was in her favour. A month later, Associate Chief Justice Holmes announced a plan in which Ms. Meng would come to court on the day of the decision’s release unless she and the Crown decided it could be done by teleconference. She, her lawyers and the Crown would also receive an electronic copy of the ruling in advance.
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, and friction between Mr. Trump and China has increased as he accuses it of having misled the world about the extent of its COVID-19 pandemic.
Days before the ruling in Ms. Meng’s case, the Chinese Foreign Ministry repeated warnings that Sino-Canadian relations would suffer if Ms. Meng was not released and returned to China. China’s embassy in Ottawa expressed “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the May 27 court decision and accused Canada of acting in concert with the United States against Huawei. The company has said it was disappointed in the case outcome, but expressed confidence in Ms. Meng’s innocence.
Whatever happens next in Canada, the U.S. 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
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.