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Canadian prosecutors defend US conduct in crafting Huawei CFO extradition bid

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou claims U.S. authorities have misled a Canadian judge in an effort to have her extradited on fraud charges related to possible violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) — Embattled Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s defense team went back on the attack in a Vancouver courtroom this week as extradition hearings continue more than two years after her arrest on fraud charges in which the United States accuses her of misleading HSBC Bank about the Chinese tech firm’s dealings in Iran.

The hearings began Wednesday morning on a defense application of abuse of process against the U.S. as the requesting state, though such applications have been prolonged preludes to the main issue of whether Meng will be extradited to the United States at all.

On Wednesday, Meng’s lawyer Mona Duckett took the court through the last of four separate “branches” of abuse of process claims against the extradition bid, arguing the U.S. misled the Canadian court about evidence against Meng. In a brief, Meng’s defense claims the U.S. mischaracterized evidence to bolster the fraud case against Meng while also improperly omitting evidence that could undermine it.

“Its misconduct in certifying misleading evidence, coupled with its shifting theory of the case, has corroded the fairness of these proceedings,” the submission states.

Duckett on Wednesday accused the U.S. of misleading the Canadian court through its selective use of evidence to secure Meng’s arrest, including a now infamous PowerPoint presentation she gave to a HSBC Bank executive in Hong Kong in August 2013.

The U.S. claims that no senior decision-makers at the bank were aware of the extent of Huawei’s dealings in Iran through a subsidiary known as Skycom, in violation of U.S. sanctions on the Islamic Republic at the time by trading in banned telecom equipment. However, documents from the bank turned over to Huawei and Meng in Hong Kong, the defense claims, show that senior HSBC employees were aware of the company’s relationship to Skycom and other Iran-based entities.

That evidence, meanwhile, delayed Meng’s case for three months as her team combed through it for anything that may undermine the U.S. extradition bid. But Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes denied a bid to introduce the evidence, finding it was inappropriate given the limited role of the extradition court.  Nonetheless, Duckett told the court that the U.S. chose to craft its case in a misleading way as the HSBC documents show.

“The court would not have known about the depth of the deception, but for the investigation of the person sought,” Duckett said Wednesday, accusing U.S. authorities preparing Meng’s case of “hiding facts by inaccurately summarizing documents.”

Duckett called the U.S. conduct “the antithesis of good faith” and urged the court to stay the extradition as the only remedy to properly denounce the U.S.

But on Thursday, Canadian prosecutor Monika Rahman told the court that serious allegations of misconduct require “cogent evidence,” while the U.S. as the requesting state and treaty partner is entitled to a presumption of good faith.

“Over the course of the day yesterday you heard a number of allegations that the officials of the requesting state involved in preparing the record of the case have deliberately misstated or omitted evidence in order to mislead this court in these proceedings,” Rahman said. “These are most serious allegations, but the authorities are clear that such allegations require cogent evidence to be heard, evidence of a quality that we say is not before this court."

Rahman said there was no evidence to suggest that U.S. officials acted improperly or in bad faith as the defense has claimed.

“We stand by our submissions that the requesting state has acted honorably, fairly, and reasonably throughout these proceedings,” Rahman told Holmes, echoing the Attorney General of Canada’s written submissions defending U.S. authorities’ crafting of the records of the case (ROC) against Meng.

“There is simply no evidence to support [Meng’s] allegation that the requesting states improperly tailored the ROCs to mislead this Court,” the Attorney General of Canada wrote. “The level of detail about U.S. sanctions laws provided in the ROC does not provide grounds that the requesting state behaved in a careless or cavalier manner, or deliberately attempted to mislead this court.”

Canadian authorities arrested Meng at Vancouver airport in December 2018 on a provisional arrest warrant after prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York charged her with fraud, claiming she misled HSBC Bank about Huawei’s dealings in Iran. The charges came on the heels of reports by Reuters that Skycom, a Huawei subsidiary, had potentially violated sanctions, putting HSBC in the position of violating not only the U.S. sanctions, but also a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. over its own past misconduct. Meng denies the charges.

U.S. authorities say Meng gave false assurances to a bank executive, now known as HSBC Witness B, that Huawei’s dealings through its subsidiary in Iran were above-board as part of a “normal business cooperation” arrangement. U.S. prosecutors say the bank relied on those assurances to its detriment, putting it at both civil and criminal risk of liability for clearing the Huawei subsidiary’s Iran-based transactions in U.S. dollars.

The hearings are scheduled through until Aug. 20 with main committal arguments set to begin next week.

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Categories / Criminal, International

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