VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) – Lawyers for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou told a British Columbia court Wednesday they need several months to prepare for the upcoming fight of Meng’s potential extradition to the United States on fraud charges, and won a reprieve until September.
Meng’s lawyers said they plan to argue “intimidating and corrosive” comments made by President Donald Trump have tainted the case and it should be thrown out.
Having languished in the luxury of her Vancouver mansion on house arrest in the six months since her arrest, Meng’s fate hangs in the balance as the geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China remain high amid tariffs, trade talks, and tit-for-tat saber-rattling by the global superpowers.
Before the hearing, Meng’s lead lawyer David Martin spoke in hushed tones huddled with prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley and media lawyer Daniel Coles. Reporters and onlookers packed the public gallery, some forced to stand after seating filled up well before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes entered the courtroom.
Gibb-Carsley began by laying out an update for Holmes, briefly outlining a potential media protocol to deal with the massive international interest in the case that has strained the court registry’s resources. But the order of the day was setting a date for Meng’s extradition committal hearing as lawyers for both sides wrestled over disclosure issues for the years-long process to substantively begin.
“We have provided the disclosure to which my friends are entitled,” Gibb-Carsely told the court. “The onus is on them to establish that they are entitled to additional disclosure.”
Moreover, Gibb-Carsely said the hearing needs to happen soon and that “having multiple defense counsel cuts both ways,” saying the scheduling issues with Meng’s four-man defense team shouldn’t unduly delay the proceedings.
The Attorney General of Canada, he said, wants the matter heard in the summer, while the defense team argued for October or November.
Defense lawyer Richard Peck fired back at the notion, claiming the team’s busy schedule has nothing to do with the need for additional time. He said the legal team must file information requests with multiple agencies that frequently miss or push deadlines. He said out of the 1,742 numbered pages that have been released under the federal access to information law, large chunks are missing and many pages are redacted.
Another attorney for Meng, Scott Fenton, told the court the team intends to argue that “political abuse” surrounding the case, specifically Trump’s comments, “disentitle the requesting state” to extradition. He also said Meng’s rights were violated at Vancouver airport this past December, where she was held and interrogated, her electronic devices seized and searched, and her constitutional rights were “placed in total suspension.”
Meanwhile, Meng’s lawyers and Huawei continue to claim that what she’s accused of – misrepresentations to financial institutions – doesn’t fit the crucial test of so-called “double criminality,” where extraditions must be predicated on conduct considered a crime in both Canada and the United States.
While the Canadian government argued for dates in August, Justice Holmes set Meng’s next court date for late September to deal with disclosure applications, putting off potential arguments over double criminality and abuse of process until January 2020.
Outside court, Huawei’s vice president of media affairs Benjamin Howes said the company has “extreme confidence” in Meng’s innocence.
“The criminal case against Ms. Meng is based on allegations that are simply untrue,” he told reporters outside the courthouse. “The political factors at play during the extradition process may lead to serious violation of justice.”
Howes said Meng’s rights were also violated and she intends to ask for a stay of the extradition proceedings.
He added: “Canadians value the rule of law and the Charter of Rights. Law enforcement officials are expected to follow the rule at all times in all cases and for all people, citizens and visitors alike. We have trust in the Canadian legal process and we look forward to Ms. Meng’s freedom restored.”
Howes, who didn’t take questions from reporters, said the company plans to release information in the coming days about the financial institutions involved in the case.