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HomeBusinessCOVID: In a virtual hearing, judge makes plans as verdict nears in Meng Wanzhou’s first bid to thwart U.S. extradition

COVID: In a virtual hearing, judge makes plans as verdict nears in Meng Wanzhou’s first bid to thwart U.S. extradition

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Bob Mackin

We still do not know when Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes will release her decision on an application to block Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s extradition to the United States to face fraud charges.

But we now know that reporters will get up to three days notice to attend an hour-long, closed-door preview of her written verdict at the Law Courts in Vancouver

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court.

Holmes agreed to a proposal from lawyers for both the Canadian government and Meng during a 17-minute virtual hearing on April 27. Accredited reporters were allowed to listen-in, due to the B.C. Supreme Court’s social distancing protocol during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of reporters on the phone line was not disclosed.

Meng was among those listening by phone, with her lawyers David Martin and Richard Peck. Holmes asked if she could hear and Meng replied, “yes m’lady, I’m on the line.”

Holmes said that there were 16 people in the public gallery in courtroom 55 at the Law Courts.

“All appropriately spread out, thank you very much, and many wearing masks,” Holmes said.

Holmes said lawyers for the government and Meng would receive her judgment by email on 9 a.m. on the day it is released. Accredited reporters would receive the reasons behind closed doors at the Law Courts at 10 a.m., when the lawyers would be allowed to inform their clients, the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Department of Justice office of international affairs. An in-court hearing would follow at 11 a.m., with Meng appearing in court. 

“If counsel for the Attorney General and Ms. Meng concluded earlier on at 9 o’clock that telephone appearance would be sufficient in all the circumstances, they would notify the court between 9 and 11 and that would be the mode of appearance,” Holmes said.

Meng Wanzhou in Stanley Park (B.C. Supreme Court exhibits submitted in 2018)

Holmes did not mention a date for the verdict. At the previous hearing, on March 30, she would only say it was “not imminent.” 

Holmes also ruled that a case management brief “would be premature and inappropriate” for release.

Lawyer John Gibb-Carsley of the Canadian Department of Justice said his office continues to respond to questions from Meng’s lawyers on evidence disclosure.

Meng’s next scheduled court date is June 15.

Arguments wrapped up Jan. 23 in the first four-day hearing to determine whether Meng should be extradited to face fraud charges in the U.S.

Canadian government lawyers, on behalf of the U.S., told Holmes that there is ample evidence that Meng lied to HSBC in 2013 to hide the fact of a Huawei subsidiary doing business in Iran, in defiance of international sanctions. Meng’s lawyers argued she should be freed because the Canadian fraud law is different from the U.S. and that the case is really about sanctions that no longer apply between Canada and Iran. If Meng’s application fails, her lawyers plan to argue the case should be thrown out because of political interference by President Donald Trump.

The hearings, which began Jan. 20, were overshadowed by a bizarre display outside the Law Courts by a group of protesters hired to appear sympathetic to Meng.

Scene outside Meng Wanzhou’s Shaughnessy mansion

Meng was detained by CBSA officers Dec. 1, 2018 at Vancouver International Airport and arrested by the RCMP. She was freed Dec. 11, 2018 on $10 million bail to live under curfew at her house in Dunbar. She moved last May, with the court’s permission, to her mansion in Shaughnessy. It is coincidentally on the same block as the U.S. consular mansion.

Meanwhile, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor continue to be held hostage in China in apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest. The 500th day of their incarceration was marked by Canadian human rights advocates last week. 

Guards were on-duty outside Meng’s mansion on April 27, where renovations continue. Work is also underway at the property next door. Homemaker Jing Zhao was asking $12.38 million for the decaying, mid-1970s faux Roman architecture mansion just west of Meng’s mansion. Demolition documentation posted outside the worksite now list the owner as Maggie Xu.

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