The extradition hearings of Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou – a case that has captured global attention with the backdrop of the growing rift between Washington and Beijing – will hit its final stretch starting next week.
The arguments between Meng’s defence and Crown attorneys representing the U.S. Department of Justice will start Wednesday, Aug. 4 in front of B.C. Supreme Court associate chief justice Heather Holmes – a process that’s expected to last more than two weeks and ending on Aug. 20.
The process was delayed for three months from the original scheduled final committal date of May, when Meng asked the court to introduce new evidence from HSBC – secured from Hong Kong courts – that purportedly showed that the bank knew of the true relations between Huawei and Skycom, a subsidiary selling telecom products in Iran.
The United States said the actions of Skycom and Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, and Meng misled HSBC officials in a 2013 meeting in Hong Kong about the risk the bank would incur (in terms of U.S. penalties) if it continued to provide services to Huawei.
Meng’s bid to introduce new evidence was ultimately rejected by Holmes earlier this month. Holmes cited that the new HSBC documents were not strong enough to prove outright that the U.S. Record of the Case (ROC, or what prosecutors’ version of what Meng did to warrant arrest/extradition) was “manifestly false.” Rather, the documents introduced alternate narratives that require a proper trial to determine their merits – a process that is outside the purview of extradition hearings.
Up to this point, Meng has suffered a series of losses in court in her fight since being arrested in Vancouver in December 2018. Last year, the Huawei executive’s argument against double criminality – the extradition requirement that the alleged crime must be an arrestable offence in Canada as well as the United States – was rejected by Holmes.
Meng has also failed to get a number of documents admitted as evidence in the case, while another bid to have the courts pull back security detail surrounding the Huawei executive during her stay in Vancouver also failed.
However, Meng’s defence was able to deliver witness testimony (through cross-examination) late last year from several Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP officers, revealing a senior CBSA manager was told not to take notes during the border check/arrest process – as is required in similar cases – because those notes may be requested by Meng in court.
Meng was also questioned by the CBSA for close to three hours upon her arrival in Vancouver from a flight from Hong Kong, during which her electronic devices (and passwords) were seized and turned over to the RCMP before Meng was formally arrested. Meng’s defence has accused the CBSA and the RCMP for using such tactics to obtain evidence in violation of Meng’s charter rights, while the Crown has argued that it is routine for the CBSA to conduct border entry checks prior to RCMP arrests – and the passcodes were handed over to the RCMP in error.
The hearings resuming Aug. 4 will begin with Meng’s argument of a third branch of an alleged “abuse of process” by Canadian and U.S. authorities in using extradition to unjustly target the Huawei exec in what the defence calls a politically motivated arrest instigated by the United States.
The third branch involves Meng’s allegations that the U.S. ROC contained a large amount of false or misleading information in painting Meng’s actions as fraud, while Crown attorneys continue to maintain the ROC has not proven to be manifestly unreliable – and any details of the case should be argued at trial in the United States after extradition.
Meng’s defence team has indicated it will request remedy on the alleged abuse-of-process by Canada and the United States after the third-branch arguments, meaning lawyers will argue that all of the alleged misconducts of RCMP, CBSA and U.S. justice officials could only be resolved if Holmes decide to stay Meng’s extradition and set her free.
The Crown has argued that there is no evidence of a conspiracy by Canadian and U.S. officials to use the extradition process improperly, as is Meng’s accusation.
Finally, after the remedy portion of the hearings, the bulk of the two-plus weeks in court will be spent on final committal – where the Crown makes its case for extradition based on all the evidence presented.
A decision on the fate of Meng will come after Aug. 20, although Holmes has not announced a date for releasing her final decision.