In new court filings in her battle against extradition to the United States, Meng Wanzhou is accusing the U.S. government of not only using her as a bargaining chip in negotiations with China, but also misleading Canada’s government and courts about the evidence gathered against her.
The Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. chief financial officer is alleging abuse of process by the American government and seeking a stay of extradition proceedings, a request expected to be heard in court in early 2021. As expected, she is citing U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments where he said he would “certainly intervene” in the Meng case if it would help get a better trade deal with China.
“These proceedings have been poisoned. They can no longer be reasonably regarded as fair, regardless of the undoubted good faith of the court,” the Huawei CFO’s legal team said in a new court filing.
Ms. Meng, who was arrested by RCMP on a U.S. extradition request in late 2018 while transiting through Vancouver International Airport, is free on bail in Vancouver. She faces a multitude of charges in the U.S., along with the Chinese telecommunications giant itself, including violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. The American charge for which she was arrested in Canada is fraud – lying to a bank – which is a crime in both this country and the United States.
In May, Ms. Meng lost her first legal bid to end the extradition process.
Canada’s arrest of Ms. Meng led to a rupture in relations with China that included Beijing locking up two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – in apparent retaliation and imposing restrictions on farm goods trade. China accused Canada of taking part in a “political conspiracy” with the U.S. to undermine Huawei.
In new court filings, Ms. Meng is challenging key elements of the U.S. case against her, flagging several instances where she alleges that the Americans are distorting the facts to suit their case. She is targeting documents submitted by U.S. prosecutors to describe the evidence supporting the American extradition request.
The United States “has improperly tailored” the record of the case against Ms. Meng “to support its theory of criminal liability,” the Huawei executive’s new court filings say. This includes selectively quoting evidence.
The U.S. alleges that Ms. Meng deceived banks including HSBC about the true nature of the relationship between Huawei and a subsidiary based in Iran, called Skycom, and that this fraud led bankers to clear hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Ms. Meng’s legal team is taking aim at a key piece of evidence that the U.S. government has cited to make its case that the Huawei CFO lied: an August, 2013, PowerPoint presentation consisting of 16 slides that Ms. Meng delivered to HSBC bankers in Hong Kong.
The U.S. government, her lawyers say, has misled the B.C. Supreme Court by selectively quoting from this PowerPoint, a copy of which is included in the submission to the court.
They contend that the U.S. record of the case against Ms. Meng and Huawei omits “highly relevant information” from two slides and in doing so leaves the impression that the tech executive never told HSBC that Skycom did business with Huawei in Iran or that Huawei and Skycom had an ongoing business relationship.
The legal team says slide No. 6 and slide No. 16 show that Ms. Meng was far more transparent with HSBC than suggested. The omitted statements include “As a business partner of Huawei, Skycom works with Huawei in sales and service in Iran” and Huawei “has a normal and controllable business co-operation with Skycom,” meaning it controlled Skycom.
Ms. Meng’s lawyers say these omissions and misrepresentations are serious. The U.S. “conduct fell so far below the expected standard of diligence, candour and accuracy to constitute a serious breach of process,” they say.
The new court filings also contend that because this August, 2013, presentation informed HSBC that Huawei and Skycom were operating together in Iran, the financial institution would have been aware that it could not clear Skycom funds through U.S. banks without risking a violation of U.S. sanctions law. “[Ms. Meng’s] PowerPoint presentation gave HSBC the material information it needed to assess the risk of clearing U.S. dollar transactions related to Skycom’s business in Iran.”
Furthermore, Ms. Meng’s legal team says, there was no need to clear U.S. dollar transactions through U.S. banks. It provides evidence, including an affidavit, that HSBC had the option of clearing U.S. funds through Clearing House Automated Transfer System (CHATS), an alternative transaction-clearing system based in Hong Kong “which involves no U.S. sanctions risk.”
“In summary – on the facts not disclosed by the [United States]: No deception. No material omission. No conduct by [Ms. Meng] placing HSBC at risk. No fraud,” her legal team said in the latest court filings.
The Globe and Mail asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which is prosecuting the case against Huawei and Ms. Meng, whether it had any comment on the allegations in the new court filings that the U.S. has misled Canada. Spokesman John Marzulli declined comment.
Ms. Meng’s latest filings also cite a December, 2019, statement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to bolster her argument that the U.S. extradition effort is tainted.
While Mr. Trudeau has repeatedly said that the Canadian extradition process is judicial and not political, he revealed last December that he’d asked Mr. Trump to not cut a final trade deal with China until there was a resolution in the cases of Ms. Meng and the two Canadians.
“The clear implication of these comments is that the Prime Minister has communicated to the [United States] that he supports its use of [Ms. Meng’s] case as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations,” the Huawei CFO’s legal team says in the court filings.
“The Prime Minister’s statements reinforce how [Ms. Meng] is caught in a geopolitical battle, not the slightest bit dependent on the merits of her criminal case.”
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.