Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou finished the first day of a new round of extradition hearings Monday in Vancouver, as the two-year anniversary of her arrest by Canadian authorities approaches.
Meng, chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant, has been fighting extradition to the United States, where she faces fraud and conspiracy charges related to alleged violations by Huawei of US sanctions on Iran.
Her December 2018 Vancouver arrest plunged Canada-China relations into crisis.
Days later, two Canadians were detained in China, accused by Beijing of espionage in what Ottawa has insisted was a retaliatory move, but which Beijing says was unrelated, while insisting Meng has violated no laws.
Over the next two weeks, Meng’s lawyers will continue their cross-examination of law enforcement involved in her detention.
Monday’s first witness was Bryce McRae, a superintendent at the Canada Border Services Agency who was involved in Meng’s detention at Vancouver airport.
Meng’s lawyers contend that Canada violated her rights when she was detained, searched and interrogated for hours.
Meng has argued, moreover, that US President Donald Trump “poisoned” her chances for a fair hearing by suggesting that he might intervene in the case, but Canada’s attorney general will argue that the court should block some of that evidence.
Meng’s lawyer has accused Canadian border officers of colluding with federal police to obtain her electronic device passcodes, and one officer admitted he unintentionally gave them over by “mistake.”
But now a key witness in that exchange — since-retired officer Ben Chang, who other officers have indicated passed Meng’s digital info to the FBI — has refused to testify, according to Meng’s defense lawyer Richard Peck.
“There may be a number of consequences from his refusal to testify,” Peck said Monday in court, adding that Chang’s absence was concerning.
Chang has denied he shared the data with the FBI, and the email in question was permanently deleted upon his retirement.
‘More closed off’
Sanjit Dhillon, a Canadian customs official present at the time of Meng’s arrest, said Monday that she had asked “repeatedly” why the interrogation was taking so long.
He intervened and then questioned her about why Huawei was not allowed to sell its products in the US.
While she had been “calm and open” at the start of the interview, his questions about allegations that the company was spying for China made her “more closed off,” Dhillon said.
Meng’s lawyer accused Canadian authorities of colluding with the FBI during her interrogation, during which they allegedly tried to gather information about her.
Another customs officer called to testify admitted at a hearing last month that he had given Canadian federal police the passwords to Meng’s electronic devices after her interrogation, though he said it was a mistake.
Canada has consistently denied the abuse of Meng’s rights.
The US has accused Meng — currently under house arrest — of hiding Huawei’s relationship with former subsidiary Skycom to evade US sanctions on Iran, which she denies.
The Trump administration argues Huawei has ties to China’s Communist Party and that its new 5G mobile technology could be used for espionage. It has urged other countries to cut ties with the company.
The extradition case is scheduled to wrap up in April 2021.