Crown says burden is on Meng's lawyers to prove device information was wrongly shared

·3 min read

VANCOUVER — A lawyer for Canada's attorney general says there's no evidence that the RCMP shared the serial numbers with U.S. investigators of the devices of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

John Gibb-Carsley told the B.C. Supreme Court that the burden of proof is on Meng's legal team to show the numbers were shared, but they can't do it.

"We say there's no evidence of that," he said Thursday.

Meng's legal team is arguing that proceedings in her extradition case should be stayed because of misconduct by RCMP and border officers involved in her arrest.

Her lawyers say a senior RCMP officer improperly shared the serial numbers, which they describe as a "gateway" to more personal information such as photos and contacts.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 on an extradition request by the United States where she's accused of fraud.

Both Meng and Huawei deny the accusations.

Her arrest fractured Canada's relations with China and the subsequent detention in China of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig has widely been seen as retaliation.

The B.C. Supreme Court hearings are expected to wrap up in May.

The court has seen email evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked for the serial numbers of the devices and RCMP collected them three days after Meng's arrest. However, the email chain goes cold before confirming if they were sent.

The senior officer at the centre of the email chain, Staff Sgt. Ben Chang, has since retired and has refused to appear in court for questioning.

Gibb-Carsley told the judge that the fact-finding inquiry about number sharing has broader implications about Meng's claims of what happened.

"It is symptomatic of how (Meng's lawyers) have created their narrative, that what's driving the actions of the RCMP and CBSA was a covert criminal investigation to assist the FBI," he said.

A factual determination that the numbers weren't shared is important for refuting the overarching allegations of abuse, misconduct and prejudice of the legal process, Gibb-Carsley said.

However, there's nothing "magical" about electronic serial numbers, which are physical markings on devices that are important for continuity of evidence, he said.

"In this file, (electronic serial number) has taken on an exotic persona, more than I say it deserves," he said.

The court heard that Chang's RCMP emails and text messages were automatically wiped when he retired in June 2019, six months after Meng's arrest.

Gibb-Carsley said the court should accept that as routine RCMP practice, not a destruction of evidence that "prejudiced" Meng's extradition case in any way.

The Crown also disputed claims Thursday that Meng's charter rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated.

Canadian officials seized her devices as part of routine arrest procedure and to protect evidence for the U.S. criminal investigation, according to the extradition request, Gibb-Carsley said.

Although information on the phones could be requested through a warrant application using the electronic serial numbers collected, it's unlikely it would be approved, he said.

Both phones were linked to telecom providers in China, a country unlikely to approve its request for access, Gibb-Carsley said.

"The narrative doesn't hold together," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press