Huawei lawyers question if Canada border agent had reasonable grounds to issue CFO’s warrant

Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves court in Vancouver
FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

November 21, 2020

By Sarah Berman

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A border official who took part in interrogating Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou testified on Friday he did not have reasonable grounds to believe she should have been denied entry to Canada but that he felt the border agency’s warrant to detain her was still justified.

Huawei lawyers are seeking to prove in a Canadian court that the investigation by Canada’s border agency two years ago at Vancouver International Airport resulted in abuse of process that should get her extradition to the United States thrown out.

Prosecutors and witnesses from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) have countered that Meng’s investigation and arrest followed usual procedures.

On Friday, defence lawyer Mona Duckett confronted CBSA agent Sowmith Katragadda about a document he signed, which included a declaration that he had reasonable grounds to believe she should be denied entry to Canada and therefore could be arrested with an immigration warrant.

When asked if he had reasonable grounds, Katragadda replied, “At the time, no I did not.”

He countered that he did not choose the wording of the paperwork and believed there was still justification for the immigration warrant.

CBSA officials have previously testified they were concerned about Meng fleeing the country if the RCMP did not arrest her.

Meng, 48, was arrested on charges of bank fraud from the United States, where she is accused of misrepresenting Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] dealings with Iran, putting one of its lenders, HSBC, at risk of violating U.S. trade sanctions.

She has denied the charges and sought to have her extradition thrown out because of alleged collusion between Canadian and U.S. authorities among other reasons.

In particular, Meng’s lawyers have asserted that Canadian and U.S. authorities used the additional investigative powers of the CBSA to interrogate Meng without a lawyer present.

CBSA officers have testified their investigation was not directed by outside authorities and would have taken place regardless of the outstanding warrant for her arrest.

Meng’s arrest has set off a diplomatic conflict between Ottawa and Beijing.

(Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver; Writing by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas, Lincoln Feast and Cynthia Osterman)