Canadian Border Chief Denies Ordering Records Blackout in Huawei CFO Detention

FILE – In this Jan. 17, 2020, file photo, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is out on bail and remains under partial house arrest after she was detained in 2018 at the behest of American authorities, leaves her home in Vancouver, British Columbia, as she heads to B.C. Supreme Court for a case management hearing. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) — A retired Canada Border Services Agency regional director denied ordering staff not to create records that could be subject to public information requests in connection with the detention and arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver Airport in December 2018.

Meng is fighting extradition to the United States to face an indictment in New York on fraud charges related to a 2013 meeting in Hong Kong in which U.S. authorities say she misled an HSBC executive about Huawei’s dealings in Iran through a subsidiary which the U.S. says was a violation of its sanctions on Iran.

Roslyn MacVicar, the former regional director general for the border agency who retired this past march, testified Friday in the ongoing extradition hearings and Meng’s subsequent claims of abuse of process by Canadian border guards and law enforcement.

Under questioning from Meng’s lawyer Mona Duckett, MacVicar said she never told staff to avoid taking notes and creating additional records in connection with the case out of fear of being subject to Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Act.

A border agency chief had testified earlier about a direction given to gather information about the events, but not create more records, with Duckett suggesting that MacVicar handed down the order out of “fear of them being disclosable.” Duckett also suggested the direction was to avoid documenting that the border agency had mistakenly handed over passcodes to electronic devices taken from Meng during her immigration and customs exam.

“I would never say that. I did not say that and it’s inconsistent with anything I’ve ever said in my capacity as a public servant. I can’t comment on how somebody heard something that I said, but I would not have said that,” MacVicar testified.

Duckett noted the passcodes had nothing to do with the extradition warrant, and the issue was a sticking point since it was an “illegality” and breach of Meng’s privacy. Moreover, she highlighted how no records of the breach exist within the agency, probing MacVicar about when she found out about the breach, which she characterized as a “significant issue.”

“There’s not a single piece of paper within the CBSA that documents that those passcodes were given over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, are you aware of that?” Duckett asked. “Do you know of a single piece of paper that exists?”

“I am not,” MacVicar replied. “I don’t.”

“Did you create one? You knew about this problem?” Duckett pressed.

“I did not,” MacVicar answered. “I don’t know when I was aware of that.”

“You were aware before you retired, right?” Duckett said.

“Correct, but I don’t know when. I can’t comment on when,” MacVicar replied.

Earlier Friday, the court heard from the border agency’s passenger operations chief Nicole Goodman, who faced a grilling from Duckett over her lack of notes surrounding the events of Meng’s eventual arrest. Goodman told the court that, in hindsight, she wishes she had taken notes to parse out the timelines, though at the time she believed Meng’s exam was “routine.”

 “At the time when this exam was taking place, to me it’s just another exam and to me it’s routine. This aftermath, to me, is extraordinary that I’m testifying on a national security exam because I deal with them all the time,” Goodman testified. “This is like a regular practice for me, or for my team or my operation because we have thousands of people that come in daily and we screen all those people, so would I wish I had notes now? Absolutely, but at the time I never would’ve envisioned that I would be here.”

Duckett asked: “But in the aftermath of this high-profile case when everyone’s asking questions, that’s when you’re told not to create notes, right?”

Goodman said no one said anything about notes specifically.

“It was more creating additional records because I had never taken any notes up until that time anyway,” she testified. “I was relying on my emails, but I will concede that it would’ve been beneficial for myself to have that time, absolutely.”

Duckett asked Goodman whether not creating records was an attempt to “recast the true facts of what happened.”

“Any questions that were ever asked of me I provided truthful and accurate information,” Goodman answered. “So I can’t speak to this and I don’t know if anything was recast because everything that I provided to my senior officials and to the Department of Justice is truthful and accurate, everything that I can recall.”

She added she believed everything was done in good faith “and executed as we knew best.”

But she did acknowledge the sharing of Meng’s passwords outside the border agency was “inappropriate,” and said it was “daunting” to face questions from superiors in Ottawa in the aftermath of Meng’s arrest

The hearing resumes Monday.

%d bloggers like this: