Lawyers for Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou blast ‘unlawful’ arrest and ‘corrosive’ remarks by Donald Trump as they say US extradition case should be thrown out
- Meng was arrested in Canada at US request on suspicion of defrauding bankers by falsely depicting Huawei’s alleged operations in Iran, breaching US sanctions
- Her lawyers say that she was deprived of her Canadian Charter rights and that Trump’s remarks on the case have made a trial impossible
Lawyers for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou blasted Canadian authorities and US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, saying they would seek to have her US extradition case thrown out because her arrest was “unlawful” and Trump’s “corrosive” remarks about her case had prejudiced any trial.
Her team also said at an administrative hearing in British Columbia’s Supreme Court that they would fight extradition on the grounds that the US fraud charges against her failed to satisfy the requirement of criminality in Canada.
Lawyer Scott Fenton said Meng’s detention at Vancouver’s airport on December 1 lasted three hours and deprived her of her Canadian Charter rights, when she was questioned about the US charges and her electronic devices seized before she was formally arrested.
“Ms Meng will apply to this court … for an order staying proceedings as an abuse of process,” he said. Her “unlawful search, detention, interrogation and delayed arrest” represented a “pattern of serious charter violations” by Canadian and US authorities, he said.
“Her rights were placed in total suspension,” he said.
Fenton also condemned Trump for his “political abuse” of the process, saying his comments on the case were “intimidating and corrosive of the rule of law”.
“They should disentitle the requesting state [the US]” from seeking Meng’s extradition, he said, adding that no jury, properly instructed, could find Meng guilty of fraud.
But lead crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley fired back, saying that the crown was reviewing an audio recording of her arrest and that the timing of the extradition hearing “should not be held hostage” by Meng’s team of four lawyers.
Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei Technologies’ founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, is accused by US authorities of defrauding HSBC bankers by falsely depicting Huawei’s alleged operations in Iran, in breach of US sanctions.
She was arrested at the request of American authorities as she changed planes on her way from Hong Kong to Mexico.
Some believe the accusations are linked to the US trade war with China. On December 11, Trump said he might intervene in Meng’s case if it would help win the trade war, something her lawyers had previously raised in court.
Much of Wednesday’s hearing was devoted to scheduling what promises to be a lengthy process.
A judge who oversaw Meng’s bail application in December said then that the extradition case could last months or even years.
Gibb-Carsley told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes on Wednesday that the court should hear the extradition case “as early as possible”, while suggesting that Meng’s legal team’s schedule was a problem.
Richard Peck, another of Meng’s lawyers, objected to Gibb-Carsley’s remark, arguing that the extensive evidence involved in the case justified an October 15 start to the extradition hearing, instead of the August 19-30 time frame proposed by Gibb-Carsley.
“We are proceeding expeditiously,” Peck said, contrasting that claim with the five-year delay between Meng committing the alleged fraud on August 22, 2013, “at a teahouse in Hong Kong”, and her being arrested.
“There’s a little bit of temerity [by the US],” he said, adding: “We have done everything in our powers to move this process forwards.”
Holmes said Meng’s lawyers had made a strong case for delays. She scheduled disclosure applications for September 23-25 and September 30-October 4, ahead of any start of an actual extradition hearing.
Holmes did not set a date for the extradition case, but estimated it would be “some considerable time in the future”. She adjourned the hearing and asked Meng to return for the disclosure talks on September 23.
Meng is currently free under private guard on C$10 million (US$7.4 million) bail, living with her husband, Carlos Liu Xiaozong, in a C$5.6 million (US$4.1 million) home in the suburb of Dunbar.
But she could soon be on the move: Gibb-Carsley said during Wednesday’s hearing that the crown consented to Meng moving to the second of her Vancouver houses, a larger C$15million (US$11 million) mansion in the exclusive Shaughnessy neighbourhood. It is just a few doors away from the official residence of the US consul general.
Meng’s Shaughnessy home, which has large grounds and a fence, was better suited to her security than her Dunbar residence, which is open to the street at its front, said another of her lawyers, David Martin.
“Apparently, large numbers of people go there [to the Dunbar home] and approach the house,” Martin said.
Meng is allowed to travel throughout the city but must wear a GPS tracker and abide by an 11pm curfew. She pays for her own private jailers to prevent her from fleeing.
The case has drawn worldwide attention and a furious reaction from Beijing, which has repeatedly demanded Meng’s release. Two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, have been detained by China on espionage charges, in a move widely seen as retaliation.