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Meng Wanzhou's Vancouver mansions are not owned in her name, extradition hearing is told

·6 min read

The judge who issued the warrant for Meng Wanzhou's arrest at the request of US authorities was not misled about her connections to Canada, and although Meng owned two multimillion-dollar houses in Vancouver, neither were listed in her name, a Canadian government lawyer said on Friday at an extradition hearing for the Huawei executive.

Meng's lawyers have cited her properties and her frequent travel to Canada as evidence that the urgency of her arrest was overstated by the Americans, and that a Royal Canadian Mounted Police [RCMP] constable's affidavit in support of the warrant, which said Meng had "no ties" to Canada, was misleading.

But Canadian government lawyer John Gibb-Carsley told the Supreme Court of British Columbia that Meng's name is not on the title of either of the homes, which are in the neighbourhoods of Dunbar and Shaughnessy and are valued at C$4.6 million (US$3.7 million) and C$13.7 million (US$10.9 million) respectively. Meng is currently living under partial house arrest in the latter property.

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"These homes are owned in Ms Meng's husband's name. Her name does not appear," Gibb-Carsley, representing US interests in the long-running extradition case, told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.

Members of a private security firm stand outside one of the homes owned by Meng Wanzhou, in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Dunbar, in January 2019. Photo: Reuters alt=Members of a private security firm stand outside one of the homes owned by Meng Wanzhou, in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Dunbar, in January 2019. Photo: Reuters

Although RCMP Constable Winston Yep did not conduct title searches to look for any Vancouver homes owned by Meng, said Gibb-Carsley, had he done so, he would have not been able to establish her ownership.

Yep swore his affidavit supporting the US arrest request before Madam Justice Margot Fleming on November 30, 2018. Yep would arrest Meng at Vancouver's airport the next day, sparking a diplomatic firestorm that threw China's relations with Canada and the US into disarray.

Meng, 49, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is accused of defrauding HSBC by lying to the bank about Huawei's business dealings in Iran, thus putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions. She denies the charges.

Meng's lawyers say her Canadian charter rights were abused by the US federal Bureau of Investigation and Canadian officers, when they engaged in a "covert criminal investigation" of her, delaying her arrest by three hours after she got off a flight from Hong Kong to allow border agents to question her and seize her electronic devices and passcodes on behalf of the Americans. The warrant had required that she be arrested "immediately".

But the government lawyers say that no abuse took place and that neither the devices, their passcodes nor their electronic serial numbers were ever given to the Americans. Data on the devices - an iPhone, a Huawei phone, an iPad, Apple laptop and a memory stick - have not been accessed since their seizure almost 28 months ago, the government side has said.

Meng Wanzhou leaves her home in Vancouver to go to British Columbia Supreme Court on Friday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP) alt=Meng Wanzhou leaves her home in Vancouver to go to British Columbia Supreme Court on Friday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

The devices were seized and Meng was questioned as part of legitimate border procedures, not a criminal investigation, the government's lawyers said.

As part of the alleged abuse, Meng's lawyers said Fleming was tricked by Yep's affidavit into approving the arrest warrant.

But Gibb-Carsley said that to describe Meng as having "no ties" to Canada was "defensible and not misleading", and although Meng was a frequent traveller to Canada, this did not change the fact that she did so as a visitor.

"I'm not saying it would have been wrong to include that information ... but it's not a material omission," said the government lawyer.

Gibb-Carsley said urgency was the critical factor to consider in the issuing of an extradition warrant, and only three facts were required to make the case for urgency to Fleming: Meng was a Chinese citizen, she lived in China, and she was travelling to Vancouver en route to a third country.

Another government lawyer, Marta Zemojtel, addressed note-taking practices by police and border officers involved in Meng's treatment. These were "not perfect", she said, but the evidence they provided could be relied upon, and the officers involved were credible witnesses.

She said that no negative inference should be drawn about an absence of notes by Constable Yep about a meeting at the airport between RCMP officers and Canada border officers about how Meng's impending arrival should be handles, although he subsequently recalled the meeting because of its importance.

Holmes interjected: "Isn't the expectation that police will take note of important things?"

For the past fortnight, the court has been hearing arguments about the abuse claim. Next week, Meng's lawyers will embark on a new argument to get the extradition thrown out by claiming that the charges brought by the US are contrary to international law.

Another argument, that her case amounts to a political prosecution, was heard earlier this month, while a final argument, that the US misled the court with its summaries of the case, will be heard next month, before committal proceedings bring the hearings to a possible close in May.

Holmes must then decide whether Meng should be freed or her extradition to face trial in New York approved. But appeals could drag out the process for years, and a final decision on whether to extradite her will rest with Canada's justice minister.

Meng's treatment has infuriated Beijing. In the days after her arrest, two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were arrested in China; in recent days, they have undergone brief trials for espionage but no verdicts have been announced.

Canada's government regards Kovrig and Spavor as victims of hostage diplomacy and arbitrary arrest.

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.