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Meng Wanzhou's dishonesty 'abundantly clear' and she should be taken into custody, Canadian government lawyers say

·6 min read

Meng Wanzhou's dishonesty was "abundantly clear" and the US had successfully made a prima facie case of fraud against the Huawei Technologies Co. executive, who should be taken into custody pending her surrender to American authorities, Canadian government lawyers told her extradition hearing.

The marathon extradition battle on Wednesday finally entered the committal stage, the last courtroom process before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes will decide whether to release Meng or recommend to Canada's Justice Minister David Lametti that she be sent for trial in New York.

Meng is accused of defrauding HSBC by lying to the bank about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, conducted via an affiliate called Skycom, thus putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

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The charges centre on a PowerPoint presentation that Meng delivered to a banker in a Hong Kong teahouse in 2013. She denies the charges.

Canada's Department of Justice chief general counsel, Robert Frater, who is representing US interests in the case, said the PowerPoint's message "slide after slide" was how rigorous Huawei was in sanctions compliance.

But in her presentation to the banker, known as Witness B, Meng had "falsely tried to distance Huawei from Skycom ... the truth [is] that Huawei was Skycom".

"Ms Meng was faithful to Huawei's script," said Frater, and "the evidence of dishonesty in this case is, we say, abundantly clear".

In a written submission, Frater and his Department of Justice colleagues said the Americans had satisfied the standard for Meng's committal to be extradited, namely, that the evidence they provided was sufficient to put her on trial in Canada if her conduct had occurred there.

It was "crystal clear" that Canadian fraud law was to prevent dishonesty in business dealings, said Frater, and Meng "was dishonest because of what she did say and what she did not say".

Meng Wanzhou arrives to attend a court hearing in Vancouver on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters alt=Meng Wanzhou arrives to attend a court hearing in Vancouver on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

"It is requested that this honourable court order the committal of Ms Meng into custody, pursuant to section 29 of the [Extradition] Act, to await surrender for the offence," the written submission said.

"The evidence demonstrates that Ms Meng deliberately made dishonest representations to HSBC in an attempt to preserve Huawei's relationship with the bank, knowing that, by acting in reliance on her misrepresentations, HSBC's pecuniary interests would be put at risk," it said in summary.

Meng, who is Huawei's chief financial officer and a daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, had falsely depicted Skycom "as merely one of Huawei's 'major local partners' engaged in 'normal business cooperation' in Iran", the submission said.

"The PowerPoint also included the representation that Huawei operated in Iran in strict compliance with US sanctions. It differentiated Huawei's 'local subsidiary in Iran' from Skycom, in which it 'no longer holds shares'," the submission said.

Holmes told Frater she had "great difficulty" understanding exactly how Huawei and Skycom had fallen afoul of US sanctions.

"I have been troubled by this issue," said Holmes.

Frater said although there was no clear line between a legal and illegal Iran transaction under the sanctions, dollar-clearing transactions of the type the US alleged against Huawei and Skycom were "clearly illegal".

But not all business in Iran was proscribed, he said; otherwise there would be "no point" in Meng's presentation to HSBC. The PowerPoint's "entire thrust" was that Huawei was active in Iran, but in compliance with the sanctions law, Frater said.

Meng is currently living under partial house arrest in a C$13.7 million (US$10.9 million) home, one of two residences she owns in Vancouver.

Her extradition battle, which has lasted almost 1,000 days since her arrest at Vancouver's airport on December 1, 2018, has until Wednesday been mostly devoted to her lawyers' attempts to have the entire proceeding stayed, or halted.

Those arguments - which contend that Meng has suffered such an "egregious" abuse of process that a stay is the only remedy - will still be considered by Holmes. If she agrees with them, she could release Meng without having to rule on committal.

Frater told Holmes that her role as an extradition judge was concerned with the reliability or quality of evidence in only a "very limited sense", and it was not to consider whether competing inferences could be drawn from the evidence.

Meng's lawyers said in their competing submission that the US accusations' "theory of liability is unprecedented in Canadian law".

Protesters in Hong Kong call for the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Wednesday. Photo: DPA alt=Protesters in Hong Kong call for the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

"In no prior case has an individual been found guilty of fraud for exposing another individual - much less a sophisticated multinational corporate entity - to the hypothetical risk of a separate and future enforcement proceeding," they said, arguing that Meng should be discharged.

"The record discloses nothing that could amount to a fraud in Canadian law. Ms Meng cannot be extradited to face trial on evidence and allegations that would not justify a trial in Canada," they wrote.

The committal phase could last until August 20, after which Holmes will consider her ruling, which might take months. If committal is approved, it falls on the justice minister alone to decide whether to surrender Meng to the Americans.

But legal experts expect Holmes' ruling to be appealed, regardless of what she decides. That could drag out for years a process that has caused a crisis in China's relations with Canada and the US.

Meng's treatment has infuriated Beijing. Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were arrested in China in the days that followed Meng's detention. They were tried for espionage this year.

Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters alt=Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Spavor was convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison, a Chinese court announced on Wednesday. No ruling has been announced in Kovrig's case.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Spavor's conviction and sentencing were "absolutely unacceptable and unjust".

"The verdict for Mr Spavor comes after more than two and a half years of arbitrary detention, a lack of transparency in the legal process and a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by international law," he said in a statement.

"We will not rest until they are safely brought home," he said of Kovrig and Spavor.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2021 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.