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High-profile extradition case of Meng Wanzhou wraps up with reserved decision

B.C. Supreme Court case culminates nearly three years of legal arguments around Huawei executive
Meng Wanzhou, centre, chief financial officer of Huawei, returns to B.C. Supreme Court after a break from her extradition hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday, August 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has reserved her decision in the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, saying only she’ll set a date for her ruling later.

The end of the extradition hearing is the culmination of nearly three years of legal arguments, as her lawyers tried to prevent Meng’s removal to the United States to face fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said the next hearing will be on Oct. 21, when she will likely indicate a date for her decision on both the extradition to the United States and the abuse of process arguments made by Meng’s lawyers.

Even if the judge commits Meng for surrender, the final decision on extradition lies with Canada’s justice minister.

Earlier Wednesday, a lawyer for Canada’s attorney general said Meng’s legal team is giving an “alternative narrative” in the extradition case against her, while ignoring important features.

Robert Frater told the court that Meng’s presentation to international bank HSBC about Huawei’s connection to a company doing business in Iran was partially true.

“There was some truth but we say not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” he said. “And there was certainly not sufficient disclosure.”

Meng’s defence team has argued there was no risk to HSBC and the bank was entirely responsible for its own decision to clear a financial transaction through the United States, putting it at risk of violating American sanctions.

Frater said that “HSBC is, after all, a bank, which is bound to be concerned about financial transactions” and they needed information on whether a dealing would be legal or illegal.

Meng is accused of lying to HSBC about Huawei’s control of subsidiary Skycom during a 2013 PowerPoint presentation, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

You should have no difficulty “finding dishonesty sufficient” enough to make a cause of fraud, Frater told Holmes.

Frater told the court as he opened the extradition case last week that Meng was not completely truthful and not forthcoming by leaving a lot unsaid during the 2013 meeting in a Hong Kong tea room with a senior HSBC banker. She failed to tell HSBC that Skycom was controlled by Huawei, which was the subject of HSBC’s concern, he added.

“And you should also be aware, if you are not already, that Huawei wholly owns Skycom,” he told the court.

This put the bank at risk of reputational damage, financial losses and violating sanctions because it was given incomplete information, he had told the court earlier.

Frater wrapped up his arguments rebutting Meng’s lawyers’ claims that the United States has given “manifestly unreliable” evidence and cherry-picked information to bolster their case against the executive.

The court heard that the job of the extradition judge is to assess if the requesting country has presented enough evidence to support a possible guilty verdict. It is not to determine if Meng is guilty or innocent, it heard.

Before the extradition hearing, Meng’s lawyers made four abuse of process claims, including that the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained when she was arrested at the airport, that there was political interference by then-U.S. president Donald Trump and that the American government summarized evidence and omitted other information in an effort to establish a case of fraud.

A statement from Huawei said the company is confident that Meng is innocent and trusts the Canadian judicial system.

“Accordingly, Huawei has been supporting Ms. Meng’s pursuit of justice and freedom,” it said. “We continue to do so today.”

Meng’s arrest placed Canada in the middle of a bitter dispute between China and the United States, and the arrests of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s detention.

Last Wednesday, Spavor was sentenced to 11 years in prison on national security charges by a Chinese court. The government released few details other than to accuse Spavor of passing along sensitive information to Kovrig. Both have been held in isolation and have had little contact with Canadian diplomats.

At the same time that Meng’s lawyers were making abuse of process arguments, a Chinese court handed out the death penalty to Canadian Robert Schellenberg after rejecting his appeal. He was originally given a 15-year sentence, but was handed the death penalty a month after Meng’s arrest.

The federal government called Schellenberg’s ruling arbitrary, and the penalty “cruel and inhumane.”

Meng has been under house arrest in a multimillion-dollar home in Vancouver.

The Huawei executive’s lawyers got in a short rebuttal before the hearing ended on Wednesday.

Mark Sandler told the court that the attorney general had not proved the exact link between Meng’s PowerPoint presentation and the subsequent decision by HSBC to clear the transaction, which resulted in a violation of an American sanction.

The fact that Meng’s lawyers were allowed the one final argument didn’t escape Frater’s notice.

“No one has received a fairer extradition hearing in this country than Ms. Meng even to the point of getting the last word.”

—Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

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