The United States deliberately misled Canada’s justice system about the evidence against Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in seeking her extradition, her lawyers told a B.C. court on Wednesday.
The allegation – that the U.S. didn’t tell Canada about crucial information – is the latest salvo in Ms. Meng’s uphill battle against extradition to New York on a charge of fraud. Extradition requests from the United States usually succeed. The U.S. assembles the evidence – summaries are permitted – and certifies to Canadian authorities that the evidence is available and sufficient for a prosecution. But if Ms. Meng’s legal team can establish that the U.S. tried to manipulate the process, it could succeed in getting the extradition request thrown out.
In extraditing accused criminals between countries, “Canada chooses its treaty partners,” Mona Duckett of Edmonton, one of Ms. Meng’s lawyers, told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court. “Partnerships require trust.” A violation of that trust harms the integrity of Canada’s justice system, and demands a stay of proceedings, she said.
The fraud charge against Ms. Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., is focused on a PowerPoint presentation she gave to officials of HSBC, a multinational bank, in a Hong Kong tea room in 2013. The United States says she lied about Huawei’s connection to another company, Skycom Tech Co. Ltd., so that it could do business in Iran, thereby evading U.S. sanctions. Banks that provided U.S. dollar transactions related to Iran through the United States may be held criminally or civilly liable.
But Ms. Meng’s lawyers say the U.S. summary of the PowerPoint presentation leaves out important elements: A slide showing that Huawei and Skycom were business partners operating together in Iran; an assertion that Skycom was “controllable”; and information that senior officials of HSBC, including its deputy head of global banking for China, knew about that relationship. Also, HSBC can clear U.S. transactions through an alternative system based in Hong Kong – where there is no risk of violating sanctions – if it chooses to do so, Ms. Meng’s lawyers argue.
“She was open about the fact that the two companies do sales and services in Iran; she used the word ‘controllable,’ ” Toronto lawyer Frank Addario, another member of Ms. Meng’s legal team, told Associate Chief Justice Holmes. He said it was “unpardonable” that the U.S. left this information out of the record of the case it gave to Canada.
He said that the U.S. theory of the case is implausible, in portraying “an innocent bank being duped” after relying on a single PowerPoint presentation to make a big decision about a major customer.
The Canadian Attorney-General’s department, which is presenting the case against Ms. Meng on behalf of the U.S., will respond to the allegations on Thursday.
The legal proceedings against Ms. Meng have been going on at B.C. Supreme Court for more than two years, and the attention from the media and public has never waned. On Wednesday, the court had to open an overflow room to accommodate members of the media, the public, Ms. Meng’s legal team and Chinese officials. During lunch break, dozens of journalists and photographers flocked to her the moment she stepped outside the courthouse.
The extradition case has caused a rupture in Canada-China relations. The United States asked the RCMP to arrest Ms. Meng, and it did so on Dec. 1, 2018. Soon after, China detained two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, in a move widely seen as a reprisal. They have been incarcerated for 969 days. Ms. Meng is free on bail and living in a mansion.
Canadian lawyers with experience in extradition cases say it is very difficult to challenge the evidence against an individual because they cannot present defences or attack the credibility of the evidence from the requesting state – in this case, the United States. (The presentation of the evidence is expected to begin in the middle of next week.)
Hence the focus on allegations that the U.S. abused the Canadian judicial process. In previous months, Ms. Meng’s legal team also accused the U.S. of politicizing the extradition process, and said Canadian border officials who arrested Ms. Meng violated her rights and gathered information for her prosecutors. The judge has said in a previous ruling that while abuse-of-process allegations involving the U.S. summary of the PowerPoint presentation may not fall into the “clearest of cases” justifying a stay, it is possible that, taken together with the other allegations of abuse, it does.
The judge will rule on the abuse-of-process allegations at the same time as she rules on whether there is enough evidence to justify extraditing Ms. Meng. If she decides Ms. Meng can be extradited, it will be up to Justice Minister David Lametti to decide whether to surrender her to U.S. authorities. The law gives him wide latitude to decide whether an extradition would be unjust and oppressive. His decision is subject to judicial review.
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