Public will be allowed to attend double criminality decision in Meng Wanzhou case

The first major decision in the high-profile extradition case of Huawei Co. Ltd. CFO Meng Wanzhou will be announced in an in-person hearing at a yet-unknown date, with members of the public able to attend in some manner, the judge presiding over the case said.

B.C. Supreme Court judge Heather Holmes said at the Meng's case's latest management hearing today that she will hold an in-person hearing (with Meng, her defence, Crown prosecutors and a limited number of accredited media and the public) for the announcement of her decision on double criminality.

The issue has been a dominant one in the first year of the Meng case last year, with the Huawei executive's defence trying to establish that the illegality of her alleged conduct - that of fraud and money laundering - stemmed from her violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran and does not apply in Canada.

The Attorney General's office must prove double criminality - or the fact that Meng's conduct amounts to an arrestable crime in Canada - in order to proceed with extradition to the United States. The Crown has argued Meng's misrepresentations to banks like HSBC did reputational harm to the institutions, accounting for fraud regardless of Canada's stance on the U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Holmes did reserve the right for Meng's lawyers and Crown prosecutors to change the hearing to a teleconference format if both sides agree to do so.

The date of the decision announcement is as yet unknown, but Holmes said she has agreed to accredited media's request to give members three-day-prior notice. She added that she feels - given the case's high level of public interest - that some in-person attendance capacity should be open to members of the public rather than given in its entirely to press, but the exact details of how that assessment will take place are not currently available.

The next officially scheduled hearing date in the case - for the Crown and defence to argue over the next set of issues in Meng's extradition instead of for announcing a decision on the double-criminality topic - is June 15.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the proceedings of Canada's highest-profile extradition case in its history, with a slew of court dates originally scheduled for April already cancelled due to the court not being open for in-person public business.