Huawei CFO to Question Canadian Police in Extradition Case

The Canadian police officer who arrested Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the U.S. provided a glimpse Monday into a 36-hour sequence of events that set off an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with China.

Winston Yep, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable who obtained a provisional arrest warrant for Meng, told a British Columbia judge Monday that border agents had wanted to question her, and since they had jurisdiction at the airport, police held back.

“We let them do their job,” he said.

Huawei CFO to Question Canadian Police in Extradition Case

Since her arrest at Vancouver’s airport almost two years ago, Meng -- the eldest daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei -- has become the highest profile target of a broader U.S. offensive against China’s largest technology company. China retaliated by jailing two Canadians, putting two more on death row, and halting billions of dollars in Canadian agricultural imports, plunging bilateral relations into their darkest period in decades.

The long-running extradition case centers on U.S. allegations that the 48-year-old Chinese executive committed fraud. The U.S. claims Meng tricked HSBC Holdings Plc into processing Iran-linked transactions that put the bank at risk of violating American sanctions.

Meng has denied any wrongdoing and argues that her case has been politicized by U.S. President Donald Trump, who sees it as a “bargaining chip” in a trade war with China.

One of her main legal strategies is to show that there was an abuse of process during her arrest that warrants throwing out a U.S. extradition request. She accuses Canadian border agents, police and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation of unlawfully using the pretext of an immigration check to get her to disclose evidence that may be used against her.

Yep had obtained a provisional warrant for Meng to be arrested “immediately” in early December 2018. He was asked why police didn’t apprehend her as soon as she landed on a flight from Hong Kong and instead allowed immigration officers to question her first -- for hours.

“We didn’t know who she was actually traveling with and what she was capable of,” Yep said, noting that there were other passengers on board and a potential for a public safety threat.

“You don’t rush in,” he told the court. “It’s a risky situation.”

Yep also said that border officials had discovered that Meng “owned a couple of homes in Vancouver” and had questions about her immigration status in Canada. She owns two multimillion-dollar residences in the Pacific Coast city, and is living in one under house arrest.

While his supervisor was concerned Meng could slip away during the customs check, Yep told the court police decided to let the immigration officials do their job first before arresting her.

The defense plans to call 10 witnesses to testify, five this week and the remainder in another set of hearings from Nov. 23 to Nov. 27. The hearings are not a trial, and the judge won’t provide a decision on them. Their purpose is to allow both sides to obtain testimony that could be used next February, when the court assesses Meng’s claim that there was an abuse of process.

The defense intends to probe the extent to which Trump administration officials directed Canadian police and border officers “to engage in a deceptive and improper search, thereby violating a court order and Ms. Meng’s Charter rights,” Huawei said in a statement Monday. “Huawei trusts the Canadian judicial system to uphold integrity and ensure justice for all. Huawei has always had great confidence in Meng Wanzhou’s innocence.”

Evidence presently earlier in the case indicated that border officials detained Meng for three hours at the airport, seized her electronic devices and passwords, and asked her about Huawei’s business in Iran without telling her why.

At the time, Meng didn’t know that she was accused of fraud related to sanctions on Iran in a sealed U.S. indictment. Border agents have said they shared “in error” her device passwords with Canadian police. She was advised of her right to remain silent hours later when police arrested her.

Meng is waging a legal battle that could take years. While final hearings are scheduled to take place in April, appeals could lengthen the process far longer with some Canadian extradition cases lasting as a long as a decade.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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