The embattled telecom executive wants a British Columbia judge to lift requirements that she remains under guard even outside of nighttime curfew hours.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CN) — The Chinese government asked Canada to release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou following threats to her and her family as she awaits possible extradition from Canada to the United States, the president of the company tasked with monitoring the embattled telecom executive testified Wednesday.
In hearings on an application by Meng to relax her strict bail conditions, William Maynard, president and COO of Lions Gate Risk Management, testified that removing the “human element” from monitoring Meng is problematic since her electronic monitoring bracelet has failed numerous times in the two years since she was granted bail.
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei and daughter of the company’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfai, continues to fight extradition to the U.S. to face fraud charges related to a now-infamous meeting between her and an unnamed HSBC bank executive. The U.S. governments claims during that meeting she lied about a Huawei subsidiary’s dealing in Iran to preserve the company’s relationship with the international bank.
While on bail, Meng has been living in one of her two multimillion-dollar Vancouver mansions under a court-imposed curfew from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and under constant supervision by Lions Gate. In her latest application, Meng seeks to remove the condition requiring she be under guard outside of curfew hours.
Maynard told the court that the electronic monitoring system is “fallible” and said the “human resources” dedicated to enforcing bail conditions are the “glue” between all the elements of her bail monitoring plan. He warned that should her bail conditions be changed to allow her to go out in public unaccompanied, “there is no deterrence” to people who either want to harm her or remove Meng from the court’s jurisdiction.
“People have been watching us,” Maynard testified under questioning by prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley. The former police officer with 31 years of experience with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the court his staff have been surveilled while on duty and Meng has been recognized in public. On Tuesday, he testified Meng was approached while working out at a hotel gym by someone who wanted to take her photograph and others have tried to get onto her property.
But he testified Wednesday under questioning from Meng’s lawyer William Smart that there haven’t been any incidents other than people taking Meng’s photograph that have required Lions Gate staff to intervene. Smart also pointed out that Lions Gate stands to lose approximately $170,000 a month should Meng’s bail variation be granted.
Before the lunch break Wednesday, Justice William Ehrcke said he wait to rule on Meng’s request until the end of January, expressing concerns that the court hadn’t heard from Lions Gate CEO Scot Filer who signed personally as a surety for Meng’s bail. Sureties, Ehrcke said, act as “jailers in the community” for people on bail.
After the afternoon lunch break, Meng’s lawyer Mona Duckett urged Justice Ehrcke to grant the bail variation. She argued Meng has shown she’s treated her bail conditions seriously and with great care.
“This woman in my submission is vigorously defending an allegation — a serious allegation — against her integrity based on a career she has built for a company with which she has considerable investment,” Duckett told Ehrcke. “To suggest that she will not see this to the end, and fight to the end, is not realistic.”
But Gibb-Carsley told Ehrcke it’s reasonable to infer that “Lions Gate has a serious concern that if these bail conditions are varied, the risk is too great to manage.” Moreover, Gibb-Carsley argued there’s been no “significant” material change to Meng’s circumstances, even with the Covid-19 pandemic, which she had cited as a reason to vary her bail conditions.
“Compliance with court orders is expected,” he said. “Compliance with court orders also goes hand in hand with the passage of time, but the passage of time in and of itself does not amount to a material change in circumstances.”
He added: “No doubt the world has changed dramatically since 2018, and Covid has changed the way everyone works, lives, and conducts their life both social and businesswise. The risk from Covid is no more of a risk to Ms. Meng from Lions Gate than it is from her other behavior working with, socially gathering with, her Huawei colleagues.”
Meanwhile Tuesday, Meng’s husband Liu Xiaozong testified he is concerned about Meng being exposed to Covid-19 by Lions Gate staff. The court heard that two Lions Gate employees had contracted the virus, though neither was on Meng’s close-protection team.
Also on Tuesday, the court heard that in May 2020 — on the eve of a crucial ruling on the so-called double-criminality element of her extradition — Meng participated in a photo shoot on the steps of the Vancouver courthouse in what turned out to be a premature celebration of her potential release.
Moreover, the court heard a Boeing 777 had been chartered from China Southern Airlines to take Meng back to China. Maynard testified yesterday that the plane had been chartered by the Chinese government, though today Meng’s lawyer clarified the plane had been chartered by a Huawei subsidiary.
Hearings on the extradition bid are scheduled through May 2021.