Officials had a 'flagrant' disregard for Meng's rights, her lawyers tell court

·4 min read

VANCOUVER — Canadian and U.S. officials involved in the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou failed, "at times miserably," in their duties to act honourably and with regard for her rights, one of her lawyers argued Wednesday.

Tony Paisana made the remarks at the start of a B.C. Supreme Court hearing where her lawyers claim the misconduct by officials was so egregious that she should be released.

"Both Canadian and American authorities engaged in misconduct that spanned the spectrum from negligence and casual indifference to Ms. Meng's rights and their own obligations to the court, to deliberate and flagrant disregard of those responsibilities," Paisana said.

Canadian officials had an "overarching preoccupation" with appeasing the United States. At nearly every turn, they prioritized the U.S. requests over Meng's rights and their obligations to the court, he claimed.

When confronted, they tried to explain the conduct away as a mistake or gave "less than truthful" answers, some bordering on the "absurd," Paisana told the court.

Lawyers for Canada's attorney general counter in court documents that the allegation of misconduct is supported only by speculation and innuendo, not by evidence.

Meng is the chief financial officer of Huawei, one of the largest telecom companies in the world, and daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei.

Her arrest at Vancouver's airport in 2018 at the request of the United States fractured Canada's relations with China.

Court hearings in China have been scheduled Friday and Monday for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadians whose detention is widely seen as retaliation for Meng's arrest.

She is wanted in the United States on fraud charges related to American sanctions against Iran that both she and Huawei deny.

Meng's legal team is trying to convince the judge overseeing her extradition case to order a stay of proceedings on the basis that she was subjected to an abuse of process. It's one of four ways they allege she suffered such an abuse.

Paisana argued Wednesday that officials ignored the court's order for Meng's "immediate" arrest, instead abusing their powers for the improper purpose of a criminal investigation by questioning her at the airport first.

He rejected an argument from Canada's attorney general that the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency were in a "legal stalemate" over whether the arrest or immigration exam should happen first.

Paisana pointed to testimony from CBSA officials who said they believed an exam involving national security concerns, like Meng's, would not be completed in a day and would inevitably be adjourned.

Officers also knew such an exam would be pointless until her extradition proceeding is over, suggesting they were gathering evidence for other purposes, he said.

"It is this that offers powerful proof to the officers' true motives," he said.

However, Canada's attorney general says in court documents that it was "reasonable" for CBSA to decide their customs and immigration process would take priority.

They took no direction from RCMP, who recognized they were working in the unique context of a port of entry. And the RCMP gained no advantage in deferring the arrest, the Crown says.

Pursing another branch of argument, Paisana pointed to omissions in legal documents provided by the United States about the case as evidence of trickery.

They omitted that the indictment was sealed, misleading Canadian officials to believe she was aware of the charges against her and was more likely to flee, he said.

Paisana urged the court to assess the defence team's claims "as a whole," as he offered an overview of other arguments to come.

Meng's lawyers will rely on witness testimony to show that a senior officer ordered officials to stop creating records about the case, which Paisana described as "the antithesis of transparency and accountability."

The misconduct extends to the "unprecedented" refusal to testify by a now-retired senior RCMP officer, who was asked in an email by the FBI to share information about Meng's devices, he said.

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

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2021.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press