Canadian and U.S. authorities colluded on an arrest plan for Meng Wanzhou in which agents met her on an airport jetway, seized her electronics and placed them into electronic-blocking bags, lawyers presenting the extraordinary nature of the interception told a B.C. courtroom Tuesday.
Ms. Meng’s legal team is arguing this week for the disclosure of additional evidence from the Crown – such as officers’ handwritten notes, e-mails and texts – relating to her Dec. 1 arrest at Vancouver International Airport. They believe those materials will help bolster their case that there was an abuse of process during the arrest and that Ms. Meng’s Charter rights were violated.
But to obtain further disclosure, they must meet what’s called an “air of reality” test – a legal test to show that there is some realistic possibility that the allegation can be substantiated. The Crown has countered that there is no evidence to support the abuse of process claim, that Ms. Meng was treated as any traveller would have been and that her lawyers are merely on a “fishing expedition.”
Ms. Meng’s lawyers rejected that Tuesday.
“On an air of reality standard, there is utterly nothing consistent with routine traveller screening in how Ms. Meng was dealt with at the outset,” lawyer Scott Fenton told Justice Heather Holmes in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
“I respectfully submit to you that everything else that happens to Ms. Meng is coloured by that fact, in terms of the further searches, further seizures of her electronic devices, the compulsion of her passwords, the relevant interrogation.”
Her defence lawyers also walked the court through CCTV video of two Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials speaking with Ms. Meng. Lawyer Richard Peck pointed to a solemn declaration by an acting superintendent with the CBSA that stated Ms. Meng repeatedly asked why she had been selected for secondary inspection, and that the agent had asked if her employer, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., did business with Iran.
Mr. Peck added that neither official took notes of this conversation, even though one had “meticulously” taken notes during other portions of Ms. Meng’s detention in the screening area.
Based on documents filed with the court, part of the defence team’s argument will be that the official intentionally failed to document the process.
“The way Ms. Meng was dealt with was anything but routine,” Mr. Peck said. “It is a notorious fact that … The Globe and Mail reported the Prime Minister saying he was aware of this – he had been advised of this before it happened.”
Mr. Fenton rejected a claim by Canada’s Attorney-General, acting on behalf of the United States, that the defence is pursuing a speculative conspiracy theory.
“We are not relying on conjecture, guesswork or wishful thinking,” Mr. Fenton said.
Ms. Meng is accused by the U.S. of providing misleading information to foreign banks regarding the nature of the relationship between Chinese telecom giant Huawei and Skycom Tech Co. Ltd., which the U.S. Department of Justice calls a subsidiary that sold telecommunications equipment to Iran.
U.S. prosecutors say that placed those banks at risk of violating U.S. sanctions through the money they handled. According to the indictment against Ms. Meng, one of the banks in question cleared more than US$100-million of Skycom-related transactions through the U.S. between 2010 and 2014.
The defence team’s arguments are expected to conclude on Wednesday.
Ms. Meng’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin in January.
With a report from the Canadian Press
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