VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) – Lawyers for embattled Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou returned to a Vancouver courtroom Monday in a drawn-out legal battle over her potential extradition to the United States, claiming again that Canadian law enforcement botched the telecom executive’s arrest at an airport in December 2018.
Flanked by four security guards, Meng strolled into the courthouse in sparkling silver high heels – an electronic monitoring bracelet attached to one ankle – and briefly spoke with a small crowd gathered as media and members of the public waited for the hearing to begin.
Lawyer Richard Peck told the court that collaboration between Canadian and American law enforcement on the arrest led to the violation of his client’s rights, claiming a plan to arrest her immediately when she touched down was changed last minute.
“We say the CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency] and RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] collaborated and arranged a plan to deal with Ms. Meng in a way that violated” the provisional arrest warrant, Peck told the court. Seeking disclosure of details about Meng’s treatment at the airport, Peck said the change of plans by police improperly “delayed the implementation of Ms. Meng’s rights.”
Peck said the order authorizing Meng’s arrest was “not any old arrest warrant,” but one with clearly set guidelines and procedures under the Extradition Act which compels authorities to “discreetly locate” the person sought, confirm their identity, provide them with a copy of the warrant and inform them of their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“There’s no ambiguity in this. Locate the person. Confirm identity, arrest and charter,” Peck told Chief Justice Heather Holmes. “The problem here, of course, is that that didn’t happen.”
Peck said instead Canadian border authorities detained and confiscated electronic devices that were placed in special bags to prevent remote wiping at the request of the FBI.
Meanwhile, Peck said the delay in the arrest “afforded the CBSA an opportunity to interrogate her,” and agents allegedly made “efforts to obscure the nature” of their interactions with Meng. Furthermore, border agents allegedly deceived the telecom executive as part of a “covert criminal investigation” under the guise of an immigration-related admissibility interview.
“The RCMP clearly originally planned to comply with the order and requirement for immediate arrest,” Peck said. However, the night before the arrest, “something goes awry, and we say for a reason,” he said.
“If you don’t arrest, you don’t have to give rights,” Peck said.
He added border agents’ notes show the improper arrest procedure was discussed in meetings between the CBSA and RCMP at Vancouver airport, which Meng’s team knows “little about.” CBSA agents “attempted to obscure what was going on by writing their notes in a certain fashion” and omitted information about the agency’s involvement in the crucial change of plans to not arrest Meng immediately, Peck said.
Peck noted one agent involved in Meng’s detention was an “extremely detailed note-taker,” yet his notebook from the day of the arrest omits a morning meeting between the RCMP and CBSA.
“Not a peep,” Peck said, adding the 9:30 a.m. meeting on the day of the arrest was left out of notes “because they don’t want people to know about it.”
Moreover, Peck told the court that declarations signed by CBSA agents involved in Meng’s detention made it look “like happenstance that they came across Ms. Meng.”
“This is somewhat unusual,” he said, given the existence of the provisional arrest warrant.
But Justice Holmes questioned Peck about the failure to record details of meetings in CBSA notebooks, asking whether notes detailed actions by officers, rather than their schedules.
“There is a note-taking policy that binds these officers,” Peck said, adding that meetings specifically aren’t necessarily recorded whereas interactions with police agencies are supposed to be recorded.
“What is missing from these notes?” he asked.
The search of Meng’s bags, he said, was improper and initiated at the behest of the United States so authorities could get their hands on Meng’s cellphones and other electronics, including an iPad, a Macbook, and a USB key.
Lawyer Tony Paisana then briefly showed video from the point of Meng’s arrest when her items were seized, walking the court through images as Meng interacted with a group of border guards before Monday’s hearing wrapped up.
The hearings, set to go into next week, are the latest in what may prove to be a years-long process to extradite Meng on what U.S. authorities say is her role in deceiving banks over Huawei’s activities in Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Hearings on the defense team’s disclosure applications continue Tuesday.