Huawei CFO Claims US Extradition Bid Violates International Law

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is accompanied by a private security detail as she leaves her home to attend a May 8, 2019, court appearance in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

(CN) — The United States’ extradition bid for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was made in violation of international law and Canadian cooperation with the request puts it at risk of breaking international law as well, the tech executive’s defense team claimed Monday in Canada’s British Columbia Supreme Court.

In the third week of scheduled abuse of process arguments in Vancouver, international law expert Gib van Ert, a newcomer on Meng’s team, told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes the U.S. is violating international law by wrongfully extending its criminal laws to a foreign person’s alleged conduct in a foreign country against a foreign bank.

The U.S. claims Meng defrauded HSBC Bank by allegedly misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship to an Iranian subsidiary that was reported to be in violation of American sanctions on telecom equipment sales in Iran. Meng alleged to have given a PowerPoint presentation in August 2013 to an unnamed bank executive, the flashpoint at the heart of the American case against her.

“This proceeding is, we say, an abuse by the United States of the extradition process and of this court’s process because it is all done in plain violation of international law,” van Ert told the court in his opening submissions Monday afternoon. “The United States is prohibited by international law from applying its criminal law to events and people that have nothing to do with it … United States’ laws do not apply in China, and what happens on the 22nd of August 2013, in a Hong Kong restaurant between a Chinese national and an Anglo-Chinese bank is, as a matter of international law, no business of the United States.”

Moreover, he said that if any laws were broken that day, “that’s the concern of China, in whose territory the events occurred.” As well, van Ert said that while international laws are not “inflexible” in recognizing the transnational nature of crime, which respects no borders, the U.S. must “show some genuine and substantial connection between its lawful interests and the events of that day in Hong Kong, then international law only permits the United States, exceptionally, to extend its criminal law to Ms. Meng.”

Relying on the fact that the alleged transactions were cleared in U.S. dollars through U.S. banks is not enough, van Ert told the court.

“They were essentially, we say, foreign commercial transactions between a U.K. company and a Chinese company,” he said. “Without that connection, the United States’ conduct in indicting Ms. Meng in its courts and pursuing her through our courts is all done in violation of international law.”

That violation, he said, has “marooned” Meng in a foreign country away from friends and her ordinary life and put Canada in the position of potentially violating international law as well.

“The United States comes to this court asking for its help in committing an internationally unlawful act,” van Ert said. “In short, if Canada extradites Ms. Meng to the United States, it will itself be breaking international law.”  

In its reply filed with the court, however, the Attorney General of Canada claims Meng’s team is wrongfully attempting to recast its argument on double-criminality as an abuse of process and customary international law.

“The extradition judge considers whether, if the relevant facts occurred in Canada, they could make out a Canadian offence,” the AGC’s submission states. “Re-Characterized as an issue of abuse of process and customary international law, [Meng] is resurrecting her claims that her prosecution would be unlawful because it allegedly enforces the Requesting State’s sanctions against Iran.”

Hearings into this branch of Meng’s abuse of process allegations are scheduled until Thursday.

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