By Sarah Berman and Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Lawyers for Huawei’s chief financial officer said on Wednesday that Joe Biden’s election as U.S. president will not undo the political interference in the case after former President Donald Trump said he would intervene in her case if it helped the United States extract a more favorable trade deal from China.
Lawyers for CFO Meng Wanzhou want her U.S. extradition case dismissed on grounds that Trump’s comments soon after her 2018 arrest meant she would not get a fair trial in the United States.
Meng, 49, was arrested on a U.S. warrant for bank fraud at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 and has since been living under house arrest while fighting extradition. She has said she is innocent. She faces charges of bank fraud in the United States over misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to violate U.S. sanctions.
Trump’s alleged political interference and violation of her legal rights are cited by Meng’s lawyers as reasons her extradition case should be thrown out. Ten days after Meng’s arrest, then-President Trump told Reuters in an interview that he would intervene in the case to get a better trade deal with China.
“With that utterance Ms. Meng became a bargaining chip in this economic contest between these two superpowers,” defence lawyer Richard Peck said. “Our contention is that his words amount to an abuse of process.”
Canadian prosecutors have said Trump’s statements about Huawei and the trade deal are no longer relevant since he has left office and the deal has already been signed.
Defence lawyer Isabel Schurman responded directly to this submission on Wednesday, saying the position is untenable and minimizes the gravity of the situation.
Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing broke down in the wake of Meng’s 2018 arrest. Days later, China detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, on espionage charges, which Canada viewed as retaliation.
Last month, Biden said, in reference to the case and ensuing diplomatic conflict, “human beings are not bargaining chips.”
Peck said this comment does not adequately repudiate the remarks of the previous president.
“It’s too late,” he said. “The harm has been done and has existed for two years.”
Earlier on Wednesday, China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, said Canada should move quickly to release Meng to help restore relations between the two countries.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that at the time of Kovrig and Spavor’s arrest, Chinese officials made it clear it was in response to Meng.
“Nothing the ambassador can say now will dissuade me from understanding that is indeed the case,” he said.
Meng’s case is scheduled to finish hearings in May.
(Reporting by Sarah Berman and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Matthew Lewis)