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CBSA officer claims Meng Wanzhou's theory on collusion with RCMP 'doesn't make any sense'

·4 min read

Canada Border Services Agency officer Scott Kirkland was the man who obtained the passcode that unlocked both Meng Wanzhou's phones; he wrote it down on a piece of paper.

Kirkland told a B.C. Supreme Court hearing Friday that he was deeply embarrassed when he realized that note had made its way — in error, he claimed — into the possession of the RCMP.

But Kirkland forcefully rejected a suggestion that his "mistake" was no accident — as defence lawyer Mona Duckett put it, that the "passcode paper was intentionally created and intentionally given to the RCMP" in violation of the Huawei executive's rights.

"That doesn't make any sense. There's no gain for any officer from the CBSA to be doing such a thing," Kirkland told Duckett.

"There's more headache than there is gain to do anything like that. I don't comprehend how I would want to do something like that knowing that ... multiple eyes are going to be on this case."

A 'heart-wrenching' mistake

Kirkland's outburst came after nearly three days of testimony about his involvement in the CBSA's questioning of the Huawei chief financial officer in the three hours before RCMP arrested her on an extradition warrant.

The 48-year-old is charged with fraud in the U.S. for allegedly lying to an HSBC executive about her company's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.

B.C. Supreme Court
B.C. Supreme Court

Prosecutors claim that HSBC placed itself at risk of loss and prosecution for breaching the same set of sanctions by relying on Meng's assurances to continue a financial relationship with Huawei.

Kirkland is one of 10 RCMP and CBSA officers testifying about the events surrounding Meng's arrest.

In gruelling cross-examination, Meng's lawyers suggested the CBSA's decision to question their client was a ruse to use the agency's extraordinary powers to interrogate Meng without a lawyer and without advising her of the real reason her phones were seized the second she stepped off her flight.

The defence believes the two agencies were working to gather evidence for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Kirkland said he realized at a post-mortem a few days after Meng landed at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, 2018 that the RCMP had taken the passcodes along with the rest of her belongings.

He insisted that police would normally have to go through an official process to obtain any information that came out of a CBSA examination.

"It was an embarrassing moment for me," Kirkland said. "It was heart-wrenching to realize I made that mistake."

After Kirkland denied deliberately obtaining the codes for the RCMP, Duckett asked him if he had "a headache right now."

"Do I have a headache?" Kirkland answered. "Yeah, I've had a constant headache for the last three days."

Questions of jurisdiction

Friday's proceedings ended with the beginning of testimony from Kirkland's supervisor on the day of Meng's arrest: CBSA Supt. Bryce McRae.

But given the slow pace of the hearing, his testimony will resume in mid-November, when a further three weeks has been set aside for witnesses.

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

A clear pattern emerged during the first week.

The RCMP officer who obtained the extradition warrant said he respected the CBSA's jurisdiction over the airport, and the CBSA witnesses insisted that once they were informed of Meng's impending arrival, they realized they would have to conduct their own examination for immigration admissibility reasons.

Both Kirkland and McRae said the CBSA's internal system had flagged Meng because of the arrest warrant, and that some Googling led them to conclude she could be a "national security" risk for espionage related to Huawei.

But Duckett pointed out that the CBSA never completed its examination and didn't search Meng's phones. She said it had always been a foregone conclusion that Meng would be leaving the airport in handcuffs with the RCMP.

She also highlighted the sparse notes taken by the CBSA officers, despite their professed concerns about Meng.

Three lines of attack

The evidence gleaned from RCMP and CBSA testimony will be used at a hearing in February when Meng's lawyers plan to argue that the case should be tossed because of three different types of abuse of process.

In addition to the alleged violation of Meng's rights during her arrest, her lawyers also claim that U.S. President Donald Trump planned to use her as a bargaining chip in a trade war with China.

And this week, the judge overseeing the case, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, also gave the defence a green light to argue that the U.S. tried to mislead Canada by omitting details that show the case against her is weak.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei's billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, will be back in court on Nov. 16 to watch the rest of the testimony.

She is living under a form of house arrest after being granted bail on $10 million in the days after her initial arrest

Meng has denied the allegations against her.