By Sarah Berman
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Witness testimony in Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case this week will be largely focused on the behind-the-scenes conduct of Canadian police in the lead-up to Meng’s arrest two years ago on a warrant from the United States, moving away from her treatment by border agents.
Meng, 48, is accused of misleading the bank HSBC on Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business affairs in Iran, allegedly causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions. If Canadian prosecutors are successful in extraditing her, Meng will face trial for wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit these crimes in the Eastern District of New York.
She denies the charges and is fighting them from under house arrest in Vancouver. Her lawyers have argued the arrest is the product of political interference.
Meng’s lawyers have submitted that border officials invented parts of their witness accounts after the fact to cover up illegal cooperation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
They are fighting to get Meng’s extradition dismissed on the basis of alleged abuses of process, arguing they constitute violations of her civil rights laid out in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Officers with the CBSA testified last week that their questioning of Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, followed standard procedures and was separate from any action by law enforcement.
Beginning Monday a series of police witnesses will speak to their role in Meng’s arrest at the Vancouver International Airport in December 2018. When RCMP Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal was called to the witness stand late Friday, he said he “didn’t have a clue” what Huawei was and had never heard the name Meng Wanzhou before December 2018.
Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing have degraded in the wake of Meng’s arrest. China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges days later.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has resisted calls to release Meng, and last week he reiterated that Canada “followed its laws” and “lived up to a longstanding extradition treaty with our closest ally.”
Witness testimony is set to last five days until Friday, with the potential for two to three more days being scheduled in December. Meng’s extradition hearing is expected to wrap up in April 2021.
(Additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Nick Zieminski)