Huawei CFO lawyer says Canadian police officials were ‘less than truthful’ in testimony

FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves court on a break in Vancouver
FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves court on a lunch break in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier/File Photo

March 18, 2021

By Sarah Berman

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A lawyer for Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou charged in court on Wednesday that Canadian police witnesses gave “less than truthful” testimony when confronted with alleged abuses of process during her extradition hearings.

The allegation was part of a wider “pattern of misconduct” that Meng’s lawyers argue should lead to her release from house arrest in Vancouver and rejection of the U.S. extradition request.

As Meng returned to court fighting her extradition case, the two Canadians who were detained by China on espionage charges shortly after Meng’s arrest will face trial in Chinese courts starting this week, the Canadian government said.

The case has soured relations between Ottawa and Beijing.

Meng, 49, was arrested on a U.S. warrant on Dec. 1, 2018, during a stopover at Vancouver International Airport. She is accused by the United States of misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions.

She denies the charges and has asked the extradition request be thrown out because her rights were violated.

Defense lawyer Tony Paisana said authorities on both sides of the border failed in their duties to conduct themselves honorably and transparently, listing many alleged violations of Meng’s rights in submissions to the court on Wednesday.

‘UNPRECEDENTED ACT’

Paisana said U.S. authorities made misrepresentations in their request for her extradition, that Canadian police disregarded an order to arrest Meng immediately, that her devices were seized without proper authority, and her device passcodes were improperly obtained.

“What we say animated much of this misconduct was an overarching preoccupation on the part of Canadian authorities to appease and otherwise comply with demands received from the FBI,” Paisana said. “At nearly every turn, the authorities prioritized U.S. requests over Ms. Meng’s rights,” he added.

Paisana said Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Staff Sergeant Ben Chang’s refusal to testify during extradition hearings in late 2020 was an “unprecedented act” and amounted to a deliberate and flagrant disregard of police responsibilities.

He said officers who did appear as witnesses last year provided “less than truthful” testimony when confronted with alleged abuses of process.

Paisana said RCMP Constable Winston Yep gave testimony “bordering on the absurd” when defending his decision to allow border agents to question Meng before her arrest by police.

Yep suggested Meng could have had knives or a counter-surveillance team with her on the plane, Paisana recalled of earlier testimony.

The RCMP was not immediately available for response to a Reuters request for comment.

Paisana said the Canadian Border Service Agency’s interrogation of Meng was “pointless” unless its true purpose was not related to immigration. He said the defense intended to prove the interrogation had an investigatory goal and that the coordination between agencies was unlawful.

Canada has called for two of Meng’s main arguments in her extradition case to be dismissed, saying her claims are not backed with evidence and that one issue has been ruled on, court documents released on Tuesday showed.

(Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver; Editing by Denny Thomas and Peter Cooney)