The world was shocked nearly two years ago when Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, was arrested at Vancouver airport.
Mrs. Meng was arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on December 1, 2018 pursuant to an extradition request from the USA, based on allegations of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. Ms. Meng remains under house arrest at her Vancouver home still pursuing legal action in Canada challenging extradition.
Most shocked of all were the Chinese. The Chinese government views Huawei as something of a national champion, carrying forth the banner of Chinese economic and technological power to the world. As CFO of the company, Ms. Meng was considered untouchable by many.
In Canada, questions have arisen over whether principles of due process were followed.
As the challenge to extradition works its way through the Canadian legal system, conflicting factual testimony by law enforcement officers, and issues with evidence offered in support of the arrest and extradition raise questions about the strength of the case. There are concerns that it appears pressure had been exerted in the background, potentially resulting to violation of rights.
It is concerning that key law enforcement officers responsible for Ms. Meng’s arrest have given differing statements about the legal grounds of the arrest and the sequence of events. If these contradictions are not clarified, there are legitimate questions going forward about the legitimacy of the arrest warrant. If the arrest was orchestrated without appropriate evidence, it would appear the whole episode had been designed to allow law enforcement authorities access to her mobile phone and personal computer. Signs point to significant violations of due process as commonly afforded to citizens of Canada.
Canada as a Common Law legal system similar to the USA requires officers to obtain arrest warrants from a specialized judge before making a legal arrest. As part of obtaining a warrant the officer must submit a statement confirming available evidence and reasons for the planned arrest. In Canada, the judge assumes the facts described by the officer in the sworn statement are correct.
However, developments in Ms. Meng’s case call this process into question. While being questioned by Ms. Meng’s lawyers, the officer who signed the sworn statement confirmed that the factual allegations as submitted had not been independently verified by the officer.
The statement submitted to the judge relied on an extradition request sent to Canada by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It has since been revealed that the same extradition request was sent to and previously denied by 9 other countries, before finally being carried out in Canada.
As told by Meng’s defense team, and supported by testimony of the arresting officer, Ms. Meng was first detained at Vancouver airport by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on a pretense in order to obtained personal passwords required to access her mobile device and computer. The argument according to Meng’s lawyers is that CBSA had no legitimate reason to initially detain and question her, calling due process into doubt.
Handwritten notes of a meeting at CBSA suggest an attempt to hide involvement of Canadian Royal Mounted Police (CRMP) in the initial arrest and request to access the electronic devices; “Don’t suggest at any point that RCMP was lead.”
Is it possible that Meng’s initial detention was coordinated by Canadian police and CBSA in support of the FBI extradition request attempting to secure access to question Meng without a lawyer and obtain evidence which would otherwise be inaccessible to law enforcement?
USA prosecutors allege that Meng lied to international bank HSBC about details relating to violations of USA economic sanctions against Iran. The alleged lying to HSBC is considered a crime under USA law, as it exposes HSBC to potential harms and sanctions due to hidden dealings with Iran.
As part of the extradition request, the USA has provided slides from a PowerPoint presentation Ms. Meng is alleged to have given to HSBC in 2013. However, according to Meng’s defense team the USA has intentionally not included two important slides which prove there was no false or misleading information presented.
The judge presiding over the case has ruled that the contents of the omitted slides be included in evidence presented at the hearing.
To China, the case of Meng Wanzhou is an example of selective application by the USA and other western countries of the concept of “Rule of Law.”
Many Chinese point out apparent differences in treatment of Meng as compared to treatment of Berkshire when it was exposed that a Turkish subsidiary of the conglomerate knowingly sold products to Iran in violation of USA sanctions from 2012-2016. Berkshire settled that case with the USA Treasure Department with payment of a fine of $4.1 million.
Others see the move as targeted against Huawei to damage the Huawei reputation as the USA wages a global effort to limit Huawei as a supplier of 5G telecommunications network technologies to USA allies.
Canada is stuck in a hard spot, between major ally USA, and trading partner China. Canadian officials should keep international perceptions of Canada as a “rule of law” based system, and the broader relationship with China in mind when deciding whether to proceed with the extradition of Meng Wenzhou.