VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) – The biting December morning cold in Vancouver did little to dampen the international firestorm surrounding the news of the arrest of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Sabrina Meng Wanzhou as she made a court appearance in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday.
On Dec. 1, Canadian authorities detained the Chinese telecom executive at Vancouver International Airport at the behest of the United States, which is now seeking her extradition on suspicion of violating trade sanctions on Iran.
Meng's arrest drew a swift rebuke from the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa and officials on both sides of the border remain tight-lipped about the details of the case.
“At the request of the U.S. side, the Canadian side arrested a Chinese citizen not violating any American or Canadian law,” the embassy's statement reads.
However, extradition requests made to Canada must involve so-called "dual criminality where in all cases, the conduct for which extradition is sought must be considered criminal in both the requesting country and in Canada."
Meng had originally asked to seal evidentiary details discussed at Friday’s hearing from the media. Canada's Extradition Act allows for parties to request a seal, which a judge can grant if publication or broadcasting the information would jeopardize a fair trial.
However, Meng's bid for a ban was quickly abandoned after it was challenged by a consortium of media outlets including Reuters, Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones, and several local media outlets in Vancouver. Meng's lawyer admitted that "the horses have left the barn."
Meanwhile, Huawei has reportedly claimed it's in the dark about the reasons for Meng's arrest but said it “believes the Canadian and U.S. legal systems will ultimately reach a just conclusion."
A spokesman for the Department of Justice in the Eastern District of New York, where Meng's charges originated, had no comment and Justice Canada would only confirm Meng's arrest at the request of the United States. Meng's lawyer David Martin did not respond to requests for comment the day before the hearing.
International media from dozens of outlets gathered outside the courthouse in downtown Vancouver Friday morning, jockeying for position outside the glass doors as a line formed to get into Courtroom 20. To a packed public gallery, Meng – clad in green prison sweats – was led to the prisoner's dock behind bulletproof glass where she was joined by a Mandarin interpreter. She smiled as her lawyers greeted her and they chatted before the arrival of Justice William Erhcke.
After dealing with the publication ban issue, crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley laid out the allegations against Meng, outlining a suspected conspiracy by Huawei to use a subsidiary called Skycom to import banned technology into Iran.
Authorities say Meng spearheaded a "damage control" effort after a Reuters story emerged that Huawei was using Skycom as an "unofficial subsidiary" to facilitate doing business in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Gibb-Carsley told the court that the "crux of the alleged fraud" centered on a presentation Meng gave to HSBC Bank in Hong Kong, in which she supposedly gave false assurances of Huawei's compliance with international law while doing business in Iran through Skycom.