FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou reaches into her bag for a face mask as she leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada March 15, 2021. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier/File Photo
March 26, 2021
By Sarah Berman and Moira Warburton
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – The Canadian judge overseeing Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case questioned a federal prosecutor on Thursday about why a retired police officer, considered a key witness by the defense, had declined to testify.
The exchange came as prosecutors defended the refusal of Ben Chang, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, to take the stand. Chang is accused by the defense of improperly sharing identifying details about Meng’s electronic devices with U.S. authorities.
Chang has denied the allegation in an affidavit submitted to courts.
Meng’s lawyers asked British Columbia Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes on Monday for Chang’s testimony to be taken with adverse inference, meaning the court would accept that if Chang was subjected to cross-examination, evidence unfavorable to him and the prosecution would emerge.
Meng, 49, was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States, charging her with bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran and potentially causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
She has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition to the United States from house arrest in Vancouver.
Meng’s legal team wants the extradition request to be dismissed, arguing abuses of process occurred before and after her arrest. Federal prosecutors have pushed back, arguing that authorities were doing their jobs under difficult circumstances, and that the defense’s story is “based on speculation.”
On Thursday, federal prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley urged Holmes to apply ordinary logic and experience in assessing the truthfulness of a sworn statement submitted by Chang in October 2019, rather than adverse inference.
Holmes said it was “difficult to work with the idea that I should apply ordinary logic and experience” when she had no information about the context of Chang’s actions, due to his refusal to submit to questioning.
She also suggested that Chang’s refusal to testify was not ordinary.
“The known facts include that he was a senior police officer,” she said. “Generally, retired police officers testify.”
Court documents show that prosecutors initially declined to release notes relating to Chang’s affidavit due to “witness safety” concerns.
Prosecutors are expected to continue their arguments through Friday. Meng’s case is set to wrap up in May.
(Reporting by Sarah Berman and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by Peter Cooney)