Prosecutor: Huawei defense turning US extradition into trial

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Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A Canadian prosecutor says by requesting the inclusion of additional evidence the defense team for a Chinese executive wanted in the United States is coming close to turning an extradition hearing into a trial.

Canada arrested the chief financial officer of Huawei at Vancouver’s airport in late 2018. The U.S. wants Meng Manzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, extradited to face fraud charges. Her arrest infuriated Beijing.

The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company called Skycom to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 48, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Prosecutor Robert Frater said evidence that establishes a defense or an alternative inference of what happened does not meet the test of relevance for an extradition hearing.

“Your duty is not to let this proceeding become a trial. Extraditions are not trials,” Frater told a judge Tuesday.

Frater questioned Meng’s lawyers denials they are not trying to introduce a defense to the charges.

“Saying that does not make it so,” said Frater.

Much of the case against Meng is based on an August 2013 PowerPoint presentation she made to a HSBC executive during a lunch in Hong Kong. Meng’s lawyers want the entire PowerPoint included in the hearing. They have accused the U.S. of using a misleading summary of the meeting that “cherry picks” evidence.

The defense argues that the U.S. tried to prove its point using selected slides. But if the full presentation is viewed, Meng explains the relationship between Huawei and Skycom.

“A banker would have left the meeting knowing Skycom and Huawei were working together in Iran,” said defense lawyer Frank Addario.

Meng’s lawyers argue she gave HSBC enough information to make its own decisions regarding U.S. sanctions.

Meng followed the proceedings through an interpreter, taking occasional sips from a water bottle. She came into the courtroom wearing a mask, which she later removed, and an electronic tracking device on her ankle which is part of her bail provisions.

This week’s proceedings are part of Meng’s arguments that the extradition proceedings should be halted because of an abuse of process.

In hearings set for early 2021, her lawyers will claim Canada Border Services Agency officers detained and questioned Meng without a lawyer, seized her electronic devices and compelled her to give up the passcodes before her official arrest.

They also plan to argue the Royal Canadian Mounted Police acted at the behest of the FBI to gather and share technical information about Meng’s laptop, phones, and tablets, in violation of the Extradition Act.

Meng’s arrest has soured relations between Canada and China. In apparent retaliation, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed.

Meng remains free on bail in Vancouver. The extradition case could take years. One extradition case in British Columbia lasted 13 years.

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