(CN) — The United States is not attempting an unlawful “territorial power grab” by trying to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for fraud, since her alleged conduct has an “overwhelming” connection to the country and therefore should be tried in a U.S. court, Canadian prosecutors said Thursday in British Columbia Supreme Court.
Hitting back at Meng’s defense team’s claims that the U.S. extradition bid violates international law, a lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada said Meng’s lawyers are in “denial” of the facts underlying the case.
Throughout the week, the court heard from Meng’s lawyer Gib van Ert that the U.S. was wrongfully asserting sanctions jurisdiction over non-U.S. citizens, which “cannot be justified on principals of international law.”
He urged the judge to toss the case against Meng, or run the risk of condoning an illegal act since there was no substantial connection between the U.S. and the actions of a Chinese citizen who allegedly defrauded a British bank during a meeting in Hong Kong. Furthermore, he said there is no international consensus that commercial fraud is something states can claim “universal jurisdiction over.”
Prosecutor Robert Frater, however, said Meng’s team’s submissions ignored crucial facts underlying the extradition request.
“My friends have eloquently presented their argument, however the flaws in that argument run so wide and so deep that we scarcely know where to begin,” Frater told the court Thursday. “I would characterize their argument as one based on denial, denial of the obvious effect of the totality of facts set out in the three records of the case.”
Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that Meng’s lawyers are ignoring the context of the fraud she is accused of, where she’s alleged to have misled an HSBC Bank executive about Huawei’s dealings in Iran through a subsidiary. Meng, Frater said, called a meeting in Hong Kong in August 2013 with the bank after Reuters published articles about alleged sanctions violations by the company known as Skycom.
“The background to the pivotal meeting in Hong Kong involving Ms. Meng and Witness B of HSBC was the publication of the Reuters articles,” Frater said. “The allegation in [those] articles, was that Skycom was selling U.S.-manufactured computer equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions and that Skycom was controlled by Huawei. Why did that meeting take place? At the request of Ms. Meng, a senior executive to senior executive meeting of client and nervous bankers… The only possible reason for that meeting, given its timing on the heels of the articles, is that Ms. Meng wanted to satisfy HSBC that Huawei was not violating sanctions. That is what she set about to do. “
Moreover, Frater told the judge that the was no reason to hold the meeting other than to reassure HSBC to continue providing U.S. banking services to Huawei, including so-called dollar-clearing services in U.S. currency. He said Meng’s now-infamous PowerPoint presentation to the banker had a “strong focus” on U.S. sanctions on Iran, in an attempt “to falsely distance Huawei from Skycom, effectively saying ‘you have nothing to fear about continuing to provide U.S. banking services.’”
“The overriding message is if you continue to provide U.S. banking services, you will not incur any legal risk. It is a strong prima facie case, in our submission, that Ms. Meng knows what she is doing,” Frater said.
An extradition judge, Frater said, cannot be concerned with matters of jurisdiction and said that leaving the decision to Canada’s Minister of Justice and an American court are the only reasonable courses of action.
Earlier Thursday, Meng’s lawyer William Smart argued that waiting for the minister to decide, or the U.S. court, would be a mistake that undermines public confidence in the justice system.
“If we wait for the U.S. court to determine whether it’s violated customary international law, Ms. Meng will remain detained. As soon as she’s committed and surrendered, she may well spend months in an American jail waiting for that decision, so that’s no answer,” Smart said Thursday morning. “And if U.S. courts ultimately decide it is a violation, that will only reflect poorly on this court for not taking the jurisdiction it has and making that decision in this proceeding rather than leaving it to a foreign court.”
Thursday’s hearing concluded three weeks of submissions on Meng’s abuse of process claims and proceedings are scheduled to resume April 26.