Meng Wanzhou defence, Crown request separate arbitrator in privileged info fight

Meng Wanzhou | Photo: Chuck Chiang

Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers in the Meng Wanzhou extradition case are requesting that the judge presiding over the case appoint a “referee” to oversee the two sides’ legal battle over privileged information.

The revelation came at this morning’s case-management hearing, where B.C. Supreme Court associate chief justice Heather Holmes said the entire group will meet in court again on June 15 to work out the specific scheduling of the hearing moving forward.

Meng’s defence has been trying to compel the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency to release more information – including all of their relevant liaisons and emails with American authorities – to determine whether there was a conspiracy to seize evidence from Meng in the three hours between her detainment by the CBSA at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, 2018 and her formal arrest by police.

During today’s session, defence lawyer Scott Fenton said the appointment of a separate arbitrator when it comes to determining what information is privileged and what should be released for the hearing will bring “efficiency” to the extradition process by reducing the amount of work required of Holmes and the court directly, allowing for the hearings to be carried out in a timely manner (as Holmes had requested).

The arbitrator should be a former judge, the defence added.

In the meantime, Crown lawyer Robert Frater said both sides have so far not been able to come up with a schedule to proceed that’s agreed upon by both sides. If the privileged information portion of the hearing is removed from the formal hearing process, the last major remaining point of contention would be abuse of process – and Meng’s defence already stated that they will be presenting four major arguments under that umbrella, each requiring its own specific mini-hearing to resolve.

Frater added it is the goal for the Crown to have the extradition hearing concluded by sometime in 2021.

Meng, CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., suffered her first major setback in her fight against extradition to the U.S. last week when Holmes struck down the defence contention that the Crown failed to satisfy the double-criminality requirement for extradition.