By Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Lawyers making a final push to convince a Canadian court not to recommend the extradition of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Wednesday called into question the reliability of information provided by the United States in its extradition request.
Meng has returned to a Canadian courtroom for the final weeks of her U.S. extradition hearings, as the legal proceedings running more than two years draw to a close.
Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States, charging her with misleading HSBC Holdings PLC about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, potentially causing the bank to violate American economic sanctions.
Meng, who has said she is innocent, has been fighting her extradition from under house arrest in Vancouver.
The hearings, expected to last until Aug. 20, will initially focus on the third part of her lawyers' arguments, specifically that U.S. prosecutors materially misrepresented the case against her in their extradition request to Canada.
On Wednesday, defense lawyer Mona Duckett told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes in the British Columbia Supreme Court that there was no way for her to "know if the wool has been pulled over (her) eyes" by the United States in their request for Meng's extradition.
The defense has called the U.S. record of the case "manifestly unreliable," which Canadian prosecutors dispute.
After this stage is completed, hearings will then move to the remedy stage, which will address Meng's allegations that abuses of process occurred during her arrest. After that, a committal hearing, to determine whether there is sufficient evidence against Meng for her to stand trial, will take place.
A decision is widely expected in the autumn.
A spokesperson for Canada's Department of Justice said on Tuesday Meng will continue to be afforded a fair process in accordance with Canadian law.
Huawei said in a statement on Wednesday it "remains confident" in Meng's innocence, and added the company will continue to support her defense.
In the days following Meng's arrest, which immediately caused a chill in relations between Ottawa and Beijing, China detained two Canadians - Michael Spavor, a businessman, and Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat. Ottawa has repeatedly pressed Washington for help in pressuring China to release the men.
The context of the case has "changed significantly" since Joe Biden became U.S. president in January of this year, said Lynette Ong, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and expert on China.
Biden's return to more traditional modes of diplomacy means that Canada can rely on the United States to advocate for the two Canadians in ways it could not under former President Donald Trump, Ong said.
"Friends have to look out for each other's interests in the Biden era, which wasn't the case during Trump - it was very much a unilateral aggressive approach," Ong said.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)