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UPDATED: Meng lawyer calls U.S. extradition request 'a legal kidnapping'

The Meng Wanzhou extradition hearings resumed this morning in Vancouver as the Huawei Technologies CFO presents her final defence in a bid to stave off committal.
Albert Van Santvoort photo/BIV files

The Meng Wanzhou extradition hearings resumed this morning in Vancouver as the Huawei Technologies CFO presents her final defence in a bid to stave off committal.

If she and her legal team fail in that bid, Meng will be committed to be extradited by BC Supreme Court to the United States to face fraud and money laundering charges.

This morning, defence lawyer Richard Peck opened the proceedings, arguing that the numerous allegations of abuse of process by U.S. and Canadian authorities – ranging from misrepresenting Meng’s alleged crimes in the Record of the Case and violating Meng’s charter rights by seizing her electronic devices and passwords without formal arrest to not recording key portions of the communications between agencies to coordinate the arrest on Dec. 1, 2018 -  amounted to a serious violation of Canada’s rule of law.

“Since the beginning of the case, the Attorney General of Canada has emphasized the rule of law,” Peck said. “... Our contention is that to commit Ms. Meng is to go against the rule of law.”

In a following argument, Meng defence lawyer Tony Paisana dug into each of Meng's allegations against the United States and Canada in detail: The three "branches of abuse" of the extradition process repeatedly being hammered on by the defence team.

Those branches include:

1) The allegation by Meng that the U.S. Department of Justice are using extradition to conduct a 'legal kidnapping,' as Paisana cited from a preceding case's judgment, to secure benefits outside of the legal matters in this particular case;

2) Allegations by Meng that Canadian border officials "deliberately advanced a criminal investigation" on Meng without formal arrest, violating her rights in the process;

3) Alleged misrepresentations made by U.S. officials in describing the Meng case to Canadian courts to achieve everything from securing the provisional arrest warrant in 2018 to making the Crown's case stronger through inaccurate Records of the Case.

Of those, Paisana first put focus on the first branch, again bringing the specter of former U.S. President Donald Trump and his comments that he may intervene to secure a better trade deal with China into the hearings.

"Imagine for a moment that these comments were made by the prime minister of Canada in a domestic proceeding - that in a case of serious fraud that’s being alleged, the prime minister said, ‘Maybe I will intervene... if it will benefit a trade deal with X nation,’" Paisana said. "I don’t think anyone would suggest that would be anything but scandalous."

Paisana also again dug into the issue of the United States' credibility as an extradition agreement partner, noting questions such as U.S. authorities' jurisdiction over alleged crimes outside its territory (as Meng's actions in this case occurred in Hong Kong and other places outside of the United States).

"When they seek extradition of an individual, it should be for a crime that the requesting state has found a legitimate connection to," Paisana said "In this case, the requesting state has stretched the bounds of international law to an unlawful or abusive degree... If Canada agrees to cooperate and trust the requesting state and its officials to treat to proceedings with respect, we do not expect them to leverage the proceedings for political and economic gains."

Peck also touched on the accusations' second branch, describing the alleged misconducts for U.S. Department of Justice, the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency as “numerous incursions that are injurious” to Canadian values, laws and constitutional rights. He added that – while extradition hearings have limited purview over the determination of evidence in cases – that limit “does not oust court of control of its own process, where the court must preserve the integrity of its own proceedings.”

The hearings resumed last week with defence and Crown counsel trading fire over the U.S. Record of the Case (ROC), with Meng accusing the U.S. document of misrepresenting facts to make its case to arrest and extradite Meng.

Peck reiterated those claims this morning, telling the court it is clear that HSBC – a bank that works with Huawei – knew of the Chinese tech giant’s relationship to Skycom, a subsidiary company that violated U.S. sanctions by doing business in Iran in the 2000s and early 2010s.

That means Meng could not be guilty of fraud for anything she presented to HSBC at a 2013 meeting, since HSBC chose to continue its banking relationship with Huawei on its own volition.

“It is eminently reasonable to draw from the evidence that HSBC has significant understanding of its clients and like Ms. Meng and their affairs,” Peck said, noting that this should nullify the U.S. fraud charge against the Huawei executive.

The Crown, meanwhile, maintained that the document was accurate on issues relevant to the case, and any errors – if any – do not amount to evidence that American officials were trying to unjustly make their case intentionally.

Paisana targetted those specific Crown position in this afternoon's arguments, noting that those errors and others - included the CBSA's stance that Meng's electronic passcodes were passed on to the RCMP after being seized prior to her arrest by mistake - paint a different picture.

"Misconduct has consistently benefited the requesting state," Paisana said. "We think this offers powerful proof that the mistakes did not happen from pure negligence, because if it were so, you might expect some of their negligence to benefit Ms. Meng, and that did not happen."

Paisana also in his summary of his argument noted what the defence calls a "weakness" in the U.S.'s fraud allegations against Meng, in that many of the traditional elements of fraud are not present.

"Unlike traditional fraud cases where the intent is to bilk victims out of money, that’s not what’s really being alleged here," Paisana said. "What’s being alleged is that Ms. Meng lied to continue the banking relationship, a relationship the bank wanted. It’s an unusual allegation made even more unusual that the bank didn’t lose any money."

Lastly, Paisana made a personal appeal on behalf of Meng, noting her three years in Canada being mostly spent separated from her husband and four children, adding that her name and image has been 'indelibly linked' to fraud allegations that are seriously harmful to her position as a global executive.

Paisana also noted Meng's lack of any criminal records and her global standing as a top Huawei executive.

"What has been lost in all of this... is that Ms. Meng, Sabrina Meng, is a human being deserving of respect and dignity – the respect and dignity this court has shown her throughout the proceedings but which has been sorely lacking in the conduct of the requesting state," Paisana concluded.

The Meng case - which has dropped Canada-China relations to an all-time nadir - resulted in the arrest of two Canadians in China (Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor) who continue to face espionage charges levied by Beijing. Most western observers view the arrests as retaliation for the Meng arrest, although Chinese authorities have denied this.

The Meng hearings are scheduled to continue for the next two weeks, with Crown prosecutor Robert Frater expected to respond to defence allegations on Tuesday morning.