Meng Wanzhou says her legal troubles with the United States began as far back as 2014 during a flight into New York when she was detained for a visa-related stop similar to the one at Vancouver’s airport last December allegedly engineered in partnership with the FBI.
Ms. Meng’s high-powered legal team allege in new court filings that the search of her electronics there and the recent detentions of other Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. higher-ups in other U.S. airports show a pattern of the American government’s “historical abuse of customs and immigration powers” that are similar to the alleged misconduct of the Canadian authorities.
Ms. Meng was arrested as she connected through Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States, which is alleging in an extradition case set to go to trial next January that the Huawei chief financial officer lied about the company’s activities in Iran and placed banks at risk of violating U.S. economic sanctions.
The globe-trotting telecom executive was detained by U.S. customs officials in early 2014 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and had her electronic devices temporarily seized, according to the memorandum released Tuesday. During her two-hour detention, U.S. officials accessed her deleted files from at least one device before telling her the stop was visa-related and letting her enter the country, the filing alleges.
“Evidence was preserved from at least one device as part of the ongoing investigation against Huawei,” the memorandum states.
The U.S. government blacklisted Huawei in May, alleging the Chinese company is involved in activities contrary to U.S. national security or foreign-policy interests.
The new Canadian court documents detail allegations that American border officials have abused their power numerous times to search Huawei employees and seize evidence from their phones and computers.
The memorandum states a Huawei engineer had his laptops searched and seized several different times between 2013 and 2018 as he entered or exited the United States and last year the company’s chief accountant was searched at an airport as he was leaving that country.
“A laptop computer was searched at the time in order to identify documents to assist in the investigation against Huawei,” the filing states.
In the recent filings, Ms. Meng’s legal team alleges Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) staff abused their power in a similar fashion when they detained her. Toward the end of her examination, one CBSA officer questioned her “pointedly” about Huawei and Iran, and was “again careful not to disclose the reason for her detention, her right to counsel, and her imminent arrest,” the memorandum states.
Her lawyers allege that the handling of her phones and passports is “similarly suspect." The defence team alleged that her electronic devices were seized “on behalf of the FBI, and her passcodes obtained for the FBI’s use.” The defence team further questioned why the CBSA needed to check in with the FBI to determine whether they were interested in Ms. Meng’s luggage.
None of these allegations have been proved in court and, in a previous response to Ms. Meng’s continuing civil lawsuit, the RCMP has said neither it nor the Department of Justice ever requested or suggested that border officials pursue any particular line of questioning before Ms. Meng was presented with a U.S. arrest warrant.
Rachel Rappaport, press secretary to federal Attorney-General David Lametti, said he would not comment on the new court filings because the case is still before the courts. The CBSA and the RCMP both declined to comment on the new documents. In an e-mail, RCMP spokeswoman Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet directed The Globe and Mail to a response filed by the RCMP and the CBSA in June.
Their joint response to Ms. Meng’s continuing civil claim denied their officers breached her Charter rights or acted unlawfully when they held and questioned her upon her arrival at Vancouver International Airport. Their response stated that a border agent asked Ms. Meng for her phone numbers and passwords in case he was required to search the devices for customs or immigration purposes, but neither border officials nor RCMP officers examined the devices.
The defence response said CBSA agents were aware she was the subject of an extradition warrant, but they examined her and her luggage “only for immigration and custom purposes.”
Ms. Meng’s detention last December was followed by the imprisonment of two Canadians in China. Relations between China and Canada have plummeted; Canadian canola and meat products have been subject to trade bans by China.
Ms. Meng’s extradition trial is set to begin Jan. 20, 2020.