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Meng Wanzhou's lawyers say HSBC 'fully knew' that Huawei controlled affiliates that did business in Iran

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  • HSBC

HSBC bankers "fully knew" that Huawei Technologies controlled the accounts of affiliates through which it did business in Iran, undermining US claims that Meng Wanzhou defrauded the bank by allegedly lying about the relationships, a Vancouver court heard on Monday.

Meng's lawyers are pressing their claim this week that the Huawei executive is the victim of an abuse of process, and that former US president Donald Trump tainted the American fraud case against her so badly that the US bid to have her extradited from Canada should be thrown out by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

They are also seeking to further a separate argument about the alleged abuse, that US authorities misled the court with their records of the case. They are applying to have a series of affidavits admitted to the court to bolster that claim.

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On Monday, Meng's lawyer Frank Addario told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that the record of the case submitted by the US was "manifestly unreliable".

Meng is accused of defrauding HSBC by lying about Huawei's business interests in Iran, conducted through a company called Skycom, which potentially exposed the bank to the risk of breaching US sanctions on the country.

Addario said the US record of the case left the court with the impression that as a result of a 2013 meeting between Meng and "Witness T", an HSBC banker in Hong Kong, the bank believed Skycom had been sold by Huawei to an arm's-length third-party company.

But Addario said that "Peter Z", another HSBC banker who managed the relationship with Huawei, "fully knew" that Skycom had been sold to a company called Canicula Holdings, whose accounts were still controlled by Huawei.

"The risk committee at the bank relied on Peter Z," said Addario, and US claims otherwise were "very misleading as it underplays what [he] told the global risk committee," referring to the bank group that decided to continue working with Huawei in 2014.

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, arrives at the Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday. Photo: Bloomberg alt=Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, arrives at the Supreme Court in Vancouver on Monday. Photo: Bloomberg

"Canicula was no mere third party, it was a non-arm's-length affiliate whose bank accounts were managed by Huawei," said Addario. In addition to Peter Z, "plenty of other people at the bank" were aware of this, he said, and it was "never a secret".

In HSBC emails, Skycom and Canicula were consistently referred to as "Huawei accounts", Addario said.

Holmes suggested that a fraud could be committed against a bank, even if its staff "lower down the hierarchy" understood the fraud or had information about it.

Addario responded that Peter Z "was far more than a gofer, he was the primary conduit of information" between HSBC and Huawei.

"Either he's lied to the global risk committee ... or he's told them the truth and the requesting state has not told you the truth," Addario told Holmes, adding that "either way the evidence should be in front of you."

During his remarks, Addario initially identified both Peter Z and Witness T by their full names, prompting the Crown to complain; Holmes immediately imposed a publication ban on their full names.

Canadian government lawyers say the proposed new evidence should be rejected, saying it "does not affect the reliability of the ROCs [records of the case]"; instead, they say, it represents arguments against the US charges, not Meng's extradition.

"Considering competing inferences, or whether a person may have a defence to the allegations, is not this court's responsibility but is reserved for the trial court in the United States," they say in a written submission.

US prosecutors want Meng to face trial in New York; Meng denies the fraud claims.

The allegations that Meng is the victim of an abuse of process and that she was a pawn in Trump's trade war with China have hung over the extradition case since she was arrested at Vancouver's airport on December 1, 2018, throwing China's relations with Washington and Ottawa into disarray.

The suspicions were highlighted 10 days later when Trump told the Reuters news agency he would "certainly intervene" in the case if it helped strike a trade deal with China.

Meng's lawyers said this and other remarks by US officials showed the case was politically tainted.

Canadian government lawyers, acting on behalf of US interests in the extradition case, say the entire argument is moot because Trump is no longer president. They have called the argument weak and "hyperbolic".

Hearings in the Vancouver extradition case are expected to continue until May 14, but appeals could drag proceedings out for years.

Meng, who is Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, is living under partial house arrest at a C$13 million (US$10.2 million) home she owns in Vancouver.

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.