VANCOUVER, Jan 20, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – A senior Huawei executive whose arrest
in Vancouver led to a breakdown in Canada-China relations headed to court on
Monday to fight extradition to the United States.
Meng Wanzhou, the company’s chief financial officer and eldest daughter of
its founder Ren Zhengfei, is wanted by US authorities for alleged fraud.
In order to secure her freedom, the “princess of Huawei” must convince a
Canadian judge that the US charges — linked to alleged violations of US
sanctions on Iran — would not stand up in Canada and are politically
The US alleges Meng lied to HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with its
Iran-based affiliate Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US
sanctions against Tehran.
“Simply put, there is evidence she deceived HSBC in order to induce it to
continue to provide banking services to Huawei,” the justice department said
in court filings.
Meng has denied the allegations. She has been out on bail, living in one
of her two Vancouver mansions for the past year, awaiting trial.
The justice department will say in arguing for her extradition that the US
accusations against Meng would be considered a crime in Canada if they had
occurred there. This is a key test known as double criminality.
Her lawyers, however, will counter that the misrepresentations do not
amount to fraud, but rather are an attempt by the United States to enforce
its sanctions against Iran — which Canada has not matched.
– Caught up in US-China row –
Meng’s arrest during a Hong Kong-to-Mexico flight stopover in December
2018 put the 47-year-old at the centre of the US and China’s battle over the
technology giant’s growing global reach.
It also stuck Canada in the middle of a trade row between the world’s two
largest economies, resulting in the arrests of two Canadians and restrictions
on its agricultural shipments to China.
China’s “arbitrary detentions,” according to Ottawa, of former Canadian
diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor on espionage
suspicions, nine days after Meng was taken into custody, have been widely
interpreted as retribution by Beijing aimed at pressuring Canada to free
China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, has said Meng’s release was a
“precondition” for improved bilateral ties.
Ottawa, however, has maintained it will not interfere in the legal
The hearing is scheduled to last five days.
But if the US accusations are found to also be a crime in Canada, it will
proceed to a next phase in June, when defense arguments that authorities
conspired to nab Meng as part of a “covert criminal investigation” would be
Later in the year, the court is also scheduled to weigh evidence in the US
fraud case. Any appeals risk drawing out the proceedings for years.
According to court documents, Huawei allegedly controlled the operations
of Skycom in Iran. Its staff used Huawei email accounts and security badges,
and its bank accounts were controlled by Huawei, the Crown said.
But Meng told HSBC executives in a presentation in 2013 that Huawei no
longer owned Skycom and that she had resigned from Skycom’s board.
From 2010 to 2014, HSBC and its American subsidiary cleared more than
US$100 million worth of transactions related to Skycom through the US.
– Stunting Huawei’s rise –
Ren Zhengfei has suggested that the case is part of a US plot to crush
Huawei, which it sees as a security risk.
Founded by the former People’s Liberation Army engineer in 1987, Huawei
has grown into one of the world’s biggest technology firms.
Meng is “like a small ant caught between the collision of two giant
powers,” Ren told broadcaster CNN.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who’d hoped when he came to power in 2015
to deepen Canada’s economic ties with China, prevailed on the US for help.
He told broadcaster TVA last month that he urged US President Donald Trump
not to finalize a trade deal with China “that doesn’t settle the question of
Meng Wanzhou and the two Canadians.”
Trump still went ahead and signed a “phase one” trade deal with China last
Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and his ex-deputy John
Manley, meanwhile, have urged Trudeau to simply release Meng in a “prisoner
swap” for Spavor and Kovrig, in order to normalize relations with China.
That, however, risks legitimizing Beijing’s “hostage diplomacy” tactics,
according to leading extradition experts consulted by AFP.