VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) – Huawei Technologies CFO Meng Wanzhou’s defense team plans to take the Canadian government to task over what she calls abuse of process during her arrest at Vancouver International Airport last year.
Meng returned to court Wednesday morning for a brief appearance to fix a date for her next hearing, as her fate remains uncertain after the Canadian government formally approved extradition proceedings March 1.
Federal authorities in the U.S. say Meng misled financial institutions in an effort to dupe them into clearing transactions that violated trade sanctions against Iran. Huawei vehemently denies the charges, but remains a major player in the race to build emerging 5G networks to the dismay of intelligence agencies who assert the company can be used, and is used, as a spying tool of China’s authoritarian communist government.
Meng’s security team encircled her, leading her by the arm to the courtroom Wednesday past a long lineup of local and international media and a gaggle of onlookers.
With the public gallery packed, Meng sat next to her Mandarin interpreter in the prisoner’s box as Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes heard from defense lawyers David Martin and Richard Peck.
“This is a rare case in the extradition context,” Peck told the court. “It’s a complex case. I don’t say that lightly.”
Peck briefly outlined issues with Meng’s detention, noting “serious concerns” surrounding the way the case has been handled by both Canadian officials and American authorities and “concerns not common in the extradition jurisprudence” – namely political motivations behind the case given comments by President Donald Trump.
In addition, Peck told the court that both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency have failed to honor Access to Information requests regarding details of Meng’s detainment and arrest. Both agencies, he said, sought extended timelines to respond and both failed to release the relevant documents.
But the session was adjourned after less than 20 minutes, putting the case over until May 8 to give lawyers on both sides time to work through voluminous and dense material as the years-long extradition process begins.
Meng’s lawyer David Martin declined to comment because the case is “before the courts.”
Outside the courthouse, extradition lawyer Gary Botting said the case will take a long time to be resolved, while the political fallout continues to balloon for the Canadian government.
“Clearly it’s become an issue of national importance,” Botting said. “I’m talking about the existential situation that China has put Canada in, and that Canada has put itself in by not taking a more responsible attitude toward this case by kowtowing to the American will rather than to common sense.”
Meanwhile, Meng has sued the Canada Border Services Agency and the police officer whose signature on an affidavit set in motion a chain of events that’s seen Canada’s ambassador to China resign even as two Canadians sit in Chinese prisons, said to be pawns in a high-stakes geopolitical chess game with trade deals and lives hanging in the balance. Botting said abuse of process by the Canadian government could indeed imperil the case against Meng.
“Constitutional issues are in play at the extradition hearing, as they are of course in the civil suit, but the civil suit takes a back bench, shall we say, to the extradition,” he added.