VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) — Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s defense team slammed Canada’s national police force in court Monday, saying law enforcement had destroyed emails and text messages belonging to a now-retired officer who has refused to testify in the extradition proceedings.
Defense lawyer Scott Fenton told the court Monday morning of the “shock value” tied to the “unprecedented” refusal of former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sgt. Ben Chang to testify and be cross-examined on affidavit evidence he provided prior to retiring in June 2019.
Chang, now working in Macau, refused to testify on advice of his own lawyer, dashing any hopes of Meng’s lawyers to cross-examine the former police officer, which Fenton called “one of the more troubling developments in this case.”
Monday’s hearing marked a continuation of three weeks of proceedings into abuse of process allegations brought by Meng against Canadian authorities related to her detention, questioning and eventual arrest at Vancouver Airport in December 2018. Meng faces fraud charges in New York, where U.S. prosecutors accuse her of misleading an HSBC bank executive at a meeting in Hong Kong in 2013 by misrepresenting Huawei’s dealings in Iran through a subsidiary — which would be a violation of U.S. sanctions.
Chang, the defense claims, was a point-man between the police force and the FBI’s legal attaché in Ottawa, who had sought technical information on electronic devices seized from Meng during her arrest and detention at Vancouver airport. In written submissions, the defense team claims they’re “unable to test the veracity” of Chang’s affidavit.
“[H]ad the applicant been provided this opportunity, considerable headway may have been made to undermine S/Sgt. Chang’s assertions and credibility,” the defense’s submission states.
Moreover, Fenton told the court Monday that cross-examination is a “centerpiece of the adversarial system” and absent such scrutiny, he urged the judge to place no reliance on Chang’s evidence with a finding of a so-called “adverse inference” since his refusal could be found to be an implied admission of the evidence lacking credibility.
Fenton also highlighted how the RCMP destroyed Chang’s email and more than two dozen text messages after his retirement, an act of “unacceptable, unexplained negligence on the part of the RCMP,” he said.
There is no evidence showing the police force made any efforts to comb through Chang’s emails and texts for materials related to Meng’s case, Fenton said. He noted the police force puts the onus on individual officers to preserve relevant materials, with no fail-safe to ensure evidence isn’t potentially destroyed upon an officer’s retirement.
“This system is really built to fail,” Fenton said. “This is evidence of unacceptable negligence.”
Fenton argued that Chang’s electronic communications are “absolutely relevant” to Meng’s case and their destruction should raise “serious concerns” for the court.
The Attorney General of Canada, however, argued in a court brief that there “is no evidence that the RCMP’s document preservation policies are inadequate or create systemic problems that offend the administration of justice.”
After the lunch break, Meng’s lawyer Richard Peck launched into an attack of Canadian authorities for what he called a failure to take “contemporaneous” notes about Meng’s detention and arrest, telling the court that notes are “key to unlocking the vaults of memory” and “shoddy” notetaking means that memories get lost “in the fog of time.”
The hearing continues Tuesday.