Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

The report indicates Canadian authorities anticipated backlash from China after Ms. Meng, seen here on May 27, 2020 in Vancouver, was arrested.Rich Lam/Getty Images

Just before it happened, the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States was described by one of Canada’s spy agencies as “highly political” and likely to "send shock waves around the world.”

A Dec. 1, 2018, report prepared by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was made public on Friday in court proceedings related to the extradition case of Ms. Meng, who is chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant and is detained in Canada while fighting the request for her extradition to the United States.

The report indicates Canadian authorities anticipated backlash from China after Ms. Meng, who has been described as a member of China’s corporate royalty, was arrested. It also suggests they saw the U.S. request as more than a regular extradition, and it reveals Canadian authorities wanted to avoid the impression that the United States orchestrated events.

Ms. Meng was arrested while passing through Vancouver airport. Her flight, Cathay Pacific 838, touched down at 11:13 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2018, and Ms. Meng was met by border-services agents, but only formally arrested by the RCMP several hours later.

The United States is seeking her extradition on fraud charges related to alleged violations of sanctions against Iran. U.S. authorities accuse Ms. Meng and other Huawei executives of lying to banks so they would clear transactions with Iran through the United States, despite its sanctions against doing business with Iran. She is free on bail in Vancouver.

China has called her arrest as a political move. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa has accused Canada of taking part in a “political conspiracy” to undermine Huawei. It has also dismissed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that he had no role in the matter. After Ms. Meng’s arrest, China detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in apparent retaliation.

The Huawei executive’s legal team is preparing to mount a second challenge of the extradition case after a British Columbia judge ruled against the first one. Ms. Meng’s lawyers had argued that because Canada dropped its sanctions against Iran in 2016, their client’s actions would not be illegal here. But Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled on May 27 that the heart of the alleged wrongful conduct was fraud – lying to a bank – which is a crime in both countries.

Now Ms. Meng’s lawyers are turning efforts to another challenge: that the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency, in concert with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and “with the apparent knowledge” of Canada’s attorney-general, “seriously violated” the Huawei executive’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights. They allege there was a “preplanned scheme” to delay Ms. Meng’s arrest for several hours so authorities could collect and improperly mine her electronic devices for evidence “under the pretense of conducting a routine customs inspection.”

The CSIS report, which was written on Dec. 1, 2018, before Ms. Meng arrived, said the FBI would not participate in the arrest for reasons of optics. “The FBI will not be present in an effort to avoid the perception of influence,” the report said.

As Canadian authorities prepared to apprehend Ms. Meng, they realized the request from the U.S. government, which had already begun to lobby allies to exclude Huawei from next-generation 5G wireless networks, was unusual.

The CSIS report described how the federal policing national security unit (FPNS) of the RCMP, which had a role in the matter, regarded what was taking place. "The RCMP FPNS recognizes the highly political nature of the arrest.”

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said that sentence will be of great use to the Meng legal team.

“They are going to bake the cake with that phrase,” he said on Friday.

Some parts of the CSIS report are censored. However, it demonstrates Canadian authorities realized the prospect of retaliation by China. “This planned event will be of great consequence internationally and bilaterally,” it said.

The report also remarked on the backlash after Canadian authorities arrested a Chinese businessman in June, 2014, on an extradition request in connection with the theft of U.S. military secrets. In August of that year, Canadians Kevin and Julia Garratt were detained in China in apparent retaliation, with Mr. Garratt later charged with stealing state secrets.

In a June 5 court filing, Ms. Meng’s legal team said the CSIS report shows the spy agency was “conscious of obscuring the involvement of the FBI." It noted documents already disclosed “demonstrate that the FBI was in frequent contact with Canadian law enforcement” including requesting that Ms. Meng’s electronic devices be seized and placed in signal-blocking bags.

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.