Meng Wanzhou lawyer claims CBSA examination was intended for U.S. audience only

·4 min read
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrives at the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver as her lawyers continue to fight against her extradition to the United States. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrives at the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver as her lawyers continue to fight against her extradition to the United States. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A lawyer for Meng Wanzhou says the judge overseeing the Huawei executive's extradition proceedings should question the intent of the Canada Border Services Agency officers who claimed they had legitimate reasons to question Meng before her arrest in December 2018.

As a hearing concerning the actions of RCMP and CBSA continued Friday, defence lawyer Mona Duckett drew B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes's attention to the customs examination which occurred immediately before Meng's arrest on Dec. 1, 2018.

CBSA Supt. Sanjit Dhillon asked the 49-year-old questions about Huawei's business in Iran — which happens to be the subject of the fraud charges Meng is facing in New York.

"The purpose of Dhillon's questioning had nothing to do with immigration and her admissibility," Duckett said.

"It was an attempt to gather evidence for one audience."

Accused of lying to banker

The defence team claims the CBSA and RCMP acted at the behest of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation by using the border agency's extraordinary powers to conduct a covert criminal investigation against Meng.

They spent Friday continuing arguments intended to persuade Holmes to issue a stay of the extradition proceedings because of alleged abuse of process.

A still from a video of Meng Wanzhou during her first few hours in CBSA custody. Defence lawyers argue that her Charter rights were violated during this time.
A still from a video of Meng Wanzhou during her first few hours in CBSA custody. Defence lawyers argue that her Charter rights were violated during this time. (Submitted by B.C. Supreme Court)

Meng is the chief financial officer of Huawei.

The charges against her relate to alleged lies she told an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

U.S prosecutors claim HSBC relied on Meng's alleged misrepresentations to continue handling finances for Huawei, putting the bank at risk of prosecution and loss.

'Value would only be to a U.S. audience'

Duckett read out portions of a written statement in which Dhillon detailed the questions he asked Meng as she stood in secondary examination with her bags, after having been identified and detained by CBSA officers as she emerged off a plane from Hong Kong.

RCMP officers were waiting in a nearby room with a provisional warrant calling for Meng's "immediate arrest."

Meng Wanzhou is pictured with members of her entourage during a lunch break from BC Supreme Court extradition proceedings.
Meng Wanzhou is pictured with members of her entourage during a lunch break from BC Supreme Court extradition proceedings.(Ben Nelms/CBC)

Yet the CBSA opted to question her — without a lawyer — under the terms of their authority to assess travellers seeking entry into Canada.

During their testimony last fall, Dhillon and other officers claimed they had concerns Meng was criminally inadmissible and might represent a threat to national security.

He asked Meng if Huawei sells products in the United States — a question to which Duckett claimed he already knew the answer: no.

Dhillon then followed up by asking why. He also asked Meng if her company sold products or did business in Iran.

Duckett said he was effectively asking Meng to make admissions against her own interest on matters that were of direct interest to the U.S. authorities hoping to put her in jail

"Her knowledge of wrongdoing — i.e. selling products where you shouldn't and doing business in Iran — those, remarkably, are connected to the U.S. fraud warrant related to Iran sanctions," Duckett said.

"The value of these responses to an adjudicator who is assessing whether Ms. Meng might be inadmissible to Canada for either criminality or for national security is, with respect, zero. The value would only be to a U.S. audience."

Alleged unlawful search and seizure

Duckett was one of two defence lawyers to address the court Friday.

Scott Fenton spent the afternoon arguing the RCMP had no legitimate reason to seize Meng's electronic devices and to record the associated technical information, which had been requested by the FBI.

The defence claims the recording of the information amounts to an unlawful search and seizure.

They have also accused the RCMP of sending the technical details to U.S. authorities without the proper authorization — an allegation denied by the RCMP officers involved in the case.

The hearing into allegations of abuse of process are expected to continue for two more weeks.

After arguments related to Meng's arrest, the defence will move on to another line of attack, in which they claim the U.S. is acting beyond its jurisdiction by seeking to prosecute a Chinese citizen for actions which took place in Hong Kong involving a British bank.

The proceedings will then resume during the last week of April for three more weeks, after which Holmes is expected to reserve a final decision on Meng's committal.

Meng has denied the allegations against her.