“At last, we come to committal.”
The words of Robert Frater, the top lawyer at Canada’s Department of Justice, to begin the final phase of the extradition saga for Chinese fraud suspect Meng Wanzhou — 984 days since Canadian police arrested the Huawei CFO at Vancouver International Airport.
Frater was appearing before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Aug. 11, the morning after a court in Dandong, China sentenced Canadian hostage Michael Spavor to 11 years in jail in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
At issue is the United States bid to try Meng in New York for her August 2013 meeting in Hong Kong with HSBC. The U.S. claims Meng misled bankers about a Huawei subsidiary called SkyCom in order do business in Iran, contrary to U.S. sanctions.
Meng’s statements to HSBC “were dishonest because of what she did say and because of what she did not say,” Frater said.
He told the court that Meng misled HSBC by not disclosing the truth about Huawei’s control of SkyCom.
“Ms. Meng was faithful to Huawei’s script that SkyCom was a third party partner of Huawei and that HSBC had no risk committing sanction violations by continuing to provide banking services to Huawei,” Frater said.
“When you send the CFO to the bankers to try and persuade them there is no risk, it certainly sends them a message.”
Frater said there need not be economic loss to establish fraud — only acts of dishonesty and deprivation.
Despite Meng’s defence team aiming to try the case before Holmes, Frater said, extradition hearings are not trials. They are expeditious procedures to determine whether a trial should be held. He told Holmes that her job is to decide whether the case meets Canadian extradition law, not to assess “quality, credibility or reliability of the case, except in a very limited sense.”
Meng was arrested Dec. 1, 2018 after a flight from Hong Kong. She had planned to travel onward to Mexico City the same day after a brief detour to deliver some items to one of her two houses in Vancouver.
She made it to one of those houses on Dec. 11, 2018, the day she was released on bail. Since May 2019, she has lived at a mansion on the same block as the U.S. consul general’s residence.
Her arrest sparked a diplomatic rift between Canada and China. Businessman Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested in China the same day Meng was released on bail in Vancouver. Kovrig awaits his verdict on a similar charge of spying. The Chinese government has released no evidence and denied diplomats and reporters access to their trials.
During court hearings in Vancouver over the last two years, Meng’s legal team has claimed she is the victim of a politically motivated prosecution stemming from the U.S.-China trade war. They also claim Canadian police infringed upon her rights when she was arrested.
In May 2020, Holmes ruled the U.S. extradition application could proceed because of similarities in Canadian fraud law — a principle known as double criminality.
The extradition hearing is expected to conclude by Aug. 20 and Holmes is expected to reserve her decision for a later date.
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