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United States accused of abusing 'good faith' of extradition process in Meng Wanzhou case

·4 min read
Meng Wanzhou is seen outside B.C. Supreme Court during a break at her extradition hearing. The Huawei executive is charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press - image credit)
Meng Wanzhou is seen outside B.C. Supreme Court during a break at her extradition hearing. The Huawei executive is charged with fraud and conspiracy in New York. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press - image credit)

A lawyer for Meng Wanzhou says the United States has abused the "good faith" baked into the extradition process by misleading Canada and its judicial system about the strength of criminal allegations against the Huawei executive.

Defence lawyer Mona Duckett kicked off the final portion of the high-profile B.C. Supreme Court case Wednesday by claiming U.S. prosecutors have placed a "false narrative" before the judge overseeing the proceedings.

Duckett told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes U.S. prosecutors are taking advantage of a "very privileged" legal "shortcut" allowing them to request a person's extradition based only on a written summary of evidence.

But the defence lawyer said the U.S. is expected to show "good faith" in return.

"Good faith does not mean carelessness, or negligence or dishonesty or deliberate manipulation or misuse of the process," Duckett told the judge.

"Here, we will say to you, we have a cavalier disregard [of the good faith requirement]."

Charges of fraud and conspiracy

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

She faces charges of fraud and conspiracy in New York related to allegations she lied to an HSBC executive about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

CBSA/B.C. Supreme Court
CBSA/B.C. Supreme Court

The bank allegedly relied on Meng's misrepresentations in deciding to continue a financial relationship with Huawei, risking loss and prosecution for breaching the same set of economic sanctions.

Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport on Dec. 1, 2018, after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong, en route to Mexico City and Argentina. She has denied the allegations against her.

The 49-year-old has been living under a loose form of house arrest since she was released on $10 million bail in the week after her arrest. She wears a GPS-monitoring ankle bracelet and is watched by security guards around the clock.

Meng has assembled a gold-plated defence team consisting of some of the country's best known legal advocates. The Justice Department's top lawyer, Robert Frater, leads the case for Canada's attorney general.

'How will you know?'

Wednesday marked the beginning of the last two and a half weeks of a legal odyssey that has resulted in the filing of volumes containing thousands of pages worth of legal submissions and arguments.

The day began with a search for extra space to house onlookers and lawyers who could not find space in the packed overflow room set up for those left out of the fifth-floor courtroom where the case is being heard.

Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press
Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

Media from around the world and across Canada listened in through a tinny telephone connection.

The defence and the Crown will debate the merits of the extradition request itself in the coming weeks, but Duckett began her submissions with a final plea to Holmes to stay the proceedings because of an alleged abuse of process.

Her arguments centred on the so-called "record of the case" the U.S. has provided to justify Meng's extradition. At this point, prosecutors have also certified supplementary records which detail the charges against her and the evidence they claim they will be able to place before an American judge if she's rendered for trial.

The defence claims the record is "unreliable" because documents Meng has obtained from HSBC show senior executives at the bank were aware of the risk Huawei represented.

They also claim the U.S. failed to provide the court with the entire Powerpoint that Meng gave to the HSBC banker in Hong Kong. Meng's lawyers claim the full document shows that she did not deny the relationship with the subsidiary.

Meng's defence team also claims prosecutors misled the court about how unprecedented it would have been for HSBC to face any criminal or civil consequences for unwittingly violating sanctions through a client's lies.

Duckett took Holmes through what she said was the "young" history of the 1999 Extradition Act. She said the law came about as a result of a worldwide initiative to modernize extradition between treaty partner countries.

She said the requirement to provide a "record of the case" without all the underlying documentation relieves the United States of a significant burden. But they owe Canada candour, diligence and rigour in return.

"How will you know that the wool has been pulled over your eyes?" she asked Holmes. "How do you know if a document is summarized accurately?"

Huawei issued a statement in support of its embattled chief financial officer.

"The United States has both mischaracterized evidence and omitted other evidence in order to establish a case of fraud," a company spokesperson wrote.

"Its misconduct in certifying misleading evidence, coupled with its shifting theory of the case, has corroded the fairness of the Canadian legal proceedings.

The Crown will have a chance to rebut the defence allegations in the weeks to come. In documents filed with the court, it has said the questions Meng's lawyers are asking are appropriate for trial — not extradition.

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