Meng Wanzhou bail hearings reveal details around her time in Vancouver

Meng Wanzhou bail hearings reveal threats made to Chinese exec, dispute with security firm and other details around her time in Vancouver.

Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou appearing outside a Vancouver courthouse with security staff from Lions Gate Risk Management. ALBERT VAN SANTVOORT/BIV

The bail hearings for Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. CFO Meng Wanzhou this month may be considered to be not a main part of the extradition fight between the Chinese tech executive and U.S. authorities seeking her arrest, but testimonies revealed several noteworthy tidbits about Meng’s stay in Vancouver – including the fact she had been threatened by at least one individual.

The revelation came during the bail hearings before Justice William Ehrcke, where witness Doug Maynard – president and COO of Lions Gate Risk Management, the company appointed by the court to prevent Meng from leaving Vancouver in order for her to partake in the extradition hearings – confirmed there were instances of threatening letters being mailed to Meng’s residence in Shaughnessy in the months of June and July of this year.

“At that time... there were a number of threatening letters coming by mail,” Maynard said. “They were easily identifiable by markings on the outside, and we were working with Vancouver Police hand in hand to attempt to seek out evidence that’s as pristine as possible. In liaison with Ms. Meng, it was agreed that our staff would receive the mail... and on their guidance we would open the letter. They [Meng’s staff] would then give a quick translation confirming the letter is a threatening one.

“Sometimes, there were bullets inside the envelopes, so we want to secure that evidence as best we could.”

The threats were serious enough to catch the attention of Beijing, who tried to intervene to ensure Meng’s safety, Maynard told the court.

“In the beginning of our risk assessment process, we identified numerous risks,” Maynard said. “Some were of physical harm to Ms. Meng, her family, her staff in the form of threatening letters delivered to her residence. At the beginning, when the threats were investigated, there was an immediate demand made through Global Affairs Canada to have Ms. Meng return to China because of the threats... That request was made from Chinese consul to Global Affairs.”

That was not the only instance where Chinese officials may have been involved in facilitating Meng’s departure from Canada if she were allowed to leave legally, court heard. Back in May, while awaiting the decision on dual criminality in the extradition case, there were reports that Meng’s side may have anticipated victory and a stay of proceedings, leading to a group of Meng and her associates taking a victory photo in front of the provincial court house in Vancouver days before the decision was due.

This week’s testimony also revealed that – had Meng been freed after winning the dual-criminality argument – someone had chartered a Boeing 777 passenger jet from China Southern Airlines, ready to take the Huawei executive back to China directly after Meng leaves the court house after the decision.

“I was asked to prepare a plan for the eventuality of a pending [flight] at the Vancouver International Airport for her departure,” Maynard told the court. “... I liaise with the Vancouver International Airport support staff as well as the RCMP on-site, and we were eventually able to determine that the plane would be a commercial-grade aircraft – a Boeing 777 – that was being charted by the Chinese government.”

While Maynard said airport staff and officials told him of the origins of the flight, Meng defence lawyer Bill Smart countered by saying it was “no secret” that a plane was coming to pick Meng up in Vancouver, adding that it may not have been Beijing who ordered the plane.

“If I suggested to you that the plane was chartered by a subsidiary of Huawei, are you in a position to disagree with that?” Smart asked Maynard.

“No, I’m not,” Maynard replied, noting the information on who chartered the plane was given to him by Lions Gate resources on the ground at YVR.

Regardless of who chartered the flights, the information is irrelevant, argued Meng defence lawyer Mona Duckett – who noted Meng had zero violations of bail conditions during her two years in Vancouver besides one minor incident of attempting to fix a broken heat lamp on a patio at her home after 10 p.m.

“There are no guarantees in this business,” Duckett said. “There can be no guarantee that Ms. Meng will remain and comply. However, to suggest that she would intentionally make herself a fugitive by fleeing instead of continuing to vigorously fight this extradition... is not a realistic risk, in our respectful submission.”

The Meng defence also called into question Lions Gates’ motivation in testifying against Meng’s application to loosen bail conditions, which would allow her to shed Lions Gate’s security detail during daytime outings outside her home and to drive herself around Vancouver (instead of always being escorted in a Lions Gate vehicle).

Testimony revealed a complex relationship between Meng and Lions Gate. The latter was sought out by Meng’s Vancouver lawyers after her arrest in December 2018 to satisfy the initial bail conditions addressing Meng’s potential flight risk. But testimony revealed that the two sides signed an expanded agreement in January 2019 for Lions Gate to provide additional protection to Meng – specifically her home – outside of bail conditions.

Smart noted – and Maynard agreed – that Meng and Lions Gate did not always see eye-to-eye on what security measures are necessary, and Maynard admitted there was tension at times stemming from those disagreements.

That expanded agreement was thus terminated in July 2020 – although Lions Gate continues to provide its court-appointed duties of safeguarding against the risk of Meng leaving Vancouver before her hearings conclude.

Smart further contended in court that Lions Gate is estimated to lose about $170,000 in monthly revenue if the bail conditions are loosened, which meant Meng would no longer be required to pay for a security detail during her daytime public outings. That, Smart argued, may be part of the rationale for Maynard’s stance during bail hearings testimonies.

When asked by Crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley whether being paid by Meng affects Lions Gate’s duty to the court, Maynard emphasized the security firm’s priority is to follow the court’s orders on bail conditions, no matter who is footing the bill.

“In this case, I think it gives a perception that – because [Meng] is paying – that they determine the measures that are at play,” Maynard said. “I believe it has to be us who determine the least intrusive way to enforce bail conditions in a most reasonable way. It’s somewhat tricky, and I don’t blame them [Meng’s team] for feeling that way. But it’s just the nature of how the arrangement is.”

Ehrcke is expected to issue his decision on Meng’s bid to loosen bail conditions on Jan. 29.