Meng Wanzhou braces for fight over bail conditions as extradition case gears up in 2021

·5 min read

After more than two years of living under an around-the-clock bail agreement, Meng Wanzhou plans to ask a B.C. judge to change the terms of her daytime supervision next month while she fights against extradition to the United States.

Lawyers for the Huawei executive said Wednesday they will apply to vary Meng's strict release conditions in the second week of January at a hearing expected to include affidavits and possible witness evidence.

The defence team didn't divulge the exact terms of the request apart from saying it had to do with the time she was not under curfew, but a lawyer for Canada's attorney general said he expected the Crown would oppose the application.

News of the 48-year-old's desire to loosen the strings of her court-ordered tether came at a case management conference held to plot the coming months of Meng's fight to avoid being sent to New York to face trial.

A $10 million bail agreement

Meng is charged with fraud and conspiracy in relation to allegations she lied to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

Prosecutors claim HSBC relied on Meng's assurances to continue handling financial transactions for the Chinese telecommunications giant, placing the bank at risk of loss and prosecution for breaching the same set of rules.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei's billionaire founder, was released on $10 million bail in December 2018, after spending nearly a week behind bars at a Lower Mainland correctional facility after her arrest at Vancouver International Airport.

She wears a GPS monitoring bracelet on her left ankle and is trailed by private security guards, who Meng pays to ensure she doesn't stray beyond boundaries set by the court, which include Metro Vancouver, Richmond and the North Shore.

Meng is not allowed to travel to the airport where she was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018, after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong, or to the ferry terminals.

She is also required to remain on the grounds of her mansion on Vancouver's west side from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. as part of a loose form of house arrest.

Guards are parked outside the residence, which is assessed at $13.6 million, night and day.

'An inch wide and a mile deep'

Defence lawyer Mona Duckett told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that the request for a bail variation would deal with the hours of daytime supervision "outside of her curfew hours."

Crown lawyer John Gibb-Carsley told Holmes he had not yet seen the defence application, but "from our initial discussions, it is not agreed to, it will not be on consent."

The Crown vigorously opposed Meng's release in the first place, arguing that as the fantastically wealthy chief financial officer of a global technology company, the flight risk was "an inch wide and a mile deep."

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

In the end, the defence team fashioned an agreement that saw a number of Meng's Canadian neighbours and friends put up their houses to secure her release.

At the time, the defence argued that Meng, who has denied the allegations against her, had no criminal history and would be an embarrassment to China if she fled.

Meng's lawyers are also now likely to claim she has fully met the terms of her current supervision.

Holmes was not the judge who oversaw the initial bail hearing, and any application to vary the terms of her release could be heard by the judge who made the initial decision on release.

Allegation Trump 'poisoned' proceedings

Beyond the bail application in January, the lawyers also settled on a litigation schedule that will take Meng's extradition proceedings well into 2021.

The next significant dates in her case will be the first week of March, when Meng's lawyers will make submissions on the first of four distinct arguments aimed at tossing the case.

The defence team will try to convince Holmes that U.S. President Donald Trump tried to use Meng as a pawn in the country's trade war with China, citing comments he made to a Reuters reporter to the effect that he "would certainly intervene" in the case if it meant a better trade deal.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

In documents filed in the past year, her lawyers claim that Trump has "poisoned" the proceedings.

They also pointed to comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the case in relation to Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians who have been imprisoned in China since December 2018, in what most observers believe is retaliation for Meng's arrest.

Trudeau said his government told the U.S. it should not "sign a final and complete agreement with China that does not settle the question of Meng Wanzhou and the two Canadians."

Meng's lawyers claim politicization of the case has placed their client in an impossible position where she believes her defence could affect the lives of Kovrig and Spavor — not to mention her own treatment if sent to the U.S.

No further word on reports of deal

Later in March, Holmes will hear arguments related to two of the other claims of abuse of process, which concern alleged violations of Meng's rights at the time of her arrest and an allegation that sending Meng to the U.S. would place Canada in violation of international law.

At the end of April, the extradition proceedings will continue with arguments on the last branch of abuse — an allegation that the U.S. deliberately misled Canada about the strength of the case against Meng by omitting facts from its record of the case.

Leah Mills/Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters
Leah Mills/Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters

Finally, Holmes will hear arguments about the extradition request itself, which the Crown has said is warranted.

If the judge orders Meng's committal for extradition, the defence could appeal. The ultimate decision on extradition will fall on Canada's minister of justice.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported on Dec. 3 that Meng is in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice for a deal that could bring an end to the case altogether.

According to those reports, which the CBC has not independently verified, a possible resolution would see Meng admit to some wrongdoing in exchange for deferring prosecution or dropping the charges.

The subject of those negotiations has not come up in court.