Meng Wanzhou lawyer claims RCMP, CBSA officers showed 'flagrant disregard' for rights

·6 min read
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is fighting extradition to the United States in B.C. Supreme Court. Her lawyers claim RCMP and CBSA officers conspired against her. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is fighting extradition to the United States in B.C. Supreme Court. Her lawyers claim RCMP and CBSA officers conspired against her. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A lawyer for Meng Wanzhou accused Canadian authorities Wednesday of having a "flagrant disregard" for the Constitution, the courts and the truth in their eagerness to assist American law enforcement officers in their attempts to extradite the Huawei executive.

Tony Paisana told the B.C. Supreme Court judge overseeing Meng's extradition proceedings the actions of RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency officers were flawed from start to finish.

"What we say animated much of this misconduct was an overarching preoccupation on the part of Canadian authorities to appease and otherwise comply with demands received from the FBI," Paisana told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.

"At nearly every turn, the authorities prioritized U.S. requests over Ms. Meng's rights and their own obligations to the court. And then when confronted with these issues they tried to explain away these issues as a mistake or as a product of their unique circumstances."

Arguments begin as court dates set for 'Two Michaels'

Paisana kicked off the latest round of arguments leading up to a hearing in May on the U.S. request to render Meng to New York, where she faces charges of fraud and conspiracy.

The defence wants Holmes to stay the proceedings because of alleged abuse of process.

Michael Spavor, left, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, are in Chinese custody, both having been charged with spying. Their court hearing will begin later this week, as Meng Wanzhou fights extradition in B.C..
Michael Spavor, left, and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig, are in Chinese custody, both having been charged with spying. Their court hearing will begin later this week, as Meng Wanzhou fights extradition in B.C.. (The Associated Press/International Crisis Group/The Canadian Press)

Meng, 49, is the chief financial officer of Huawei and the daughter of the Chinese telecommunications giant's founder, Ren Zhengfei.

The charges stem from accusations she lied to an HSBC executive in Hong Kong in 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against iran.

U.S. prosecutors claim HSBC relied on Meng's alleged misrepresentations in deciding to continue a financial relationship with Huawei, placing the bank at risk of loss and prosecution.

The defence began making its case on the actions of U.S. and Canadian officials even as Global Affairs Canada confirmed court hearing dates for two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities within days of Meng's arrest.

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been accused by the Chinese government of spying, but most observers believe the two men were arrested in retaliation for Canada's role in the Meng case.

Spavor's hearing is set for Friday and Kovrig's will be held next Monday. Experts say China has a 99.9 per cent conviction rate.

'Less than truthful' bordering on 'absurd'

Paisana presented Holmes with an overview of what the defence claims was a conspiracy between the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the RCMP and the CBSA to mount a covert investigation at the time of Meng's arrival in Canada on Dec. 1, 2018.

He claimed RCMP officers provided misleading information to a B.C. Supreme Court judge in order get a provisional arrest warrant and then allowed border agents to question Meng without a lawyer for three hours despite the judge's instructions for her "immediate" arrest.

This video was taken during Meng Wanzhou's first few hours in CBSA custody. Her lawyers argue that Meng was improperly questioned by CBSA officers without a lawyer.
This video was taken during Meng Wanzhou's first few hours in CBSA custody. Her lawyers argue that Meng was improperly questioned by CBSA officers without a lawyer.(Submitted by B.C. Supreme Court)

The defence also claims the CBSA seized Meng's phones without proper authority and gave the passcodes to the RCMP. They accuse the RCMP of forwarding technical information from Meng's electronic devices to the FBI in contravention of the Extradition Act.

The former RCMP staff sergeant who the defence has accused of sending serial numbers and other technical details to his FBI counterpart is refusing to testify — a decision Paisana said was "an unprecedented act, even for a retired officer."

But Paisana said the CBSA and RCMP witnesses who did take the stand during two weeks of testimony last fall provided "less than truthful" explanations for their behaviour, sometimes "bordering on the absurd."

"The officers at the heart of this case at times demonstrated a lack of regard for the charter, this court's role in overseeing their conduct, and frankly, the truth," said Paisana.

Different members of the high-profile defence team will tackle the details of each part of the argument, culminating in team leader and veteran defender Richard Peck, who will cover allegations CBSA and RCMP officers tried to conceal their misconduct.

'Speculation and innuendo'

The Crown's response to the allegations was made public on Tuesday evening.

In a 158-page document that takes apart the defence allegations point by point, the Crown claims that "U.S. officials made lawful requests of Canada, acted within the boundaries of the law, and did not seek to direct or influence the actions of Canadian agencies."

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou will be in B.C. Supreme Court hearings until mid-May. A decision on extradition is not expected until later this year.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou will be in B.C. Supreme Court hearings until mid-May. A decision on extradition is not expected until later this year.(Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Crown claims that Meng's arguments are supported only by "speculation and innuendo" and that she has failed to prove the existence of any conspiracy — much less the kind of "clearest of cases" in which a judge might bring a halt to proceedings.

"There is no evidence of conduct on the part of American or Canadian authorities that warrants putting an end to [Meng's] extradition proceedings," the submission reads.

In his portion of the argument, Paisana claimed the RCMP poisoned the process from the start by obtaining a provisional warrant for Meng's arrest accusing her of being an escape risk who had no ties to Canada.

He said the RCMP officer who swore the affidavit to obtain the warrant failed to do a background check that might have revealed that Meng owned two multi-million dollar homes in Vancouver and had once been a permanent resident.

Paisana also claimed Meng had travelled to Canada six times in 2018 prior to her arrest and had never experienced any problems. He said she was clearly not trying to escape U.S. prosecution because the charges against her were sealed, so she wasn't aware of them.

Four so-called 'branches of abuse'

Meng has been living under a form of house arrest for more than two years. As part of a $10-million bail agreement, she is required to wear a GPS ankle monitoring bracelet and is accompanied by security guards around the clock.

The arguments related to the conduct of authorities are one of four so-called "branches" of alleged abuse claimed by Meng's lawyers.

Last month, they argued Meng is being used as a pawn by the U.S. in a trade war with China.

Later in this three-week block of hearings, they will argue the U.S. lacks jurisdiction to try a Chinese citizen for actions taking place in Hong Kong and involving a British bank.

Finally, the defence will argue that the U.S. deliberately misled Canada about the strength of the case. Those arguments will take place along with submissions on the extradition request itself during a three-week period starting in late April.