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Denounce US misconduct and set Meng Wanzhou free, lawyer for Huawei executive tells judge in final phase of extradition case

August 4, 2021 GMT

US authorities’ attempts to mislead in the extradition case of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou “must be denounced” by halting the entire process, thus setting her free, her lawyer said, as the final scheduled hearings in the marathon case began in a Canadian court on Wednesday.

Meng’s lawyer Mona Duckett said her client’s mistreatment by the US ” namely, the filing of a misleading record of the fraud case against her ” could only be answered by staying the proceedings.

“The only remedy we say lies in a stay ... to meaningfully denounce the misleading conduct,” Duckett told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

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It is a process that began almost 1,000 days ago, when Meng’s 2018 arrest at Vancouver’s airport triggered a crisis in Beijing’s relations with Ottawa and Washington.

The hearings in Vancouver may represent the end game for a case that has served as a microcosm of complex geopolitical shifts, as China challenges US primacy on the world stage.

But the two choices facing Holmes are simpler ” she must decide whether to release Meng, or recommend to Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti that she be extradited to New York to face trial for fraud.

Wednesday’s hearing began with an application by Meng in the so-called “third-branch argument”, that she should be freed because of the “manifestly unreliable” record of the case (ROC), a document provided by the US that summarises the accusations against her.

The next stage, the committal hearings, are scheduled to begin on August 11, and could continue until August 20. After that, Holmes will consider her judgment, which is likely to be announced at a later date.

But legal experts say appeals could drag out the process for years, regardless of Holmes’s ruling. It is the justice minister who will ultimately decide whether to surrender Meng to the Americans.

Meng, who is Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, is accused of defrauding the bank HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business activities in Iran, putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions on Tehran.

But Duckett said the ROC was inaccurate, falsely depicting what HSBC executives knew about Huawei’s Iran business. She focused on its original claim that only junior HSBC staff knew of this business; but when documents showed that senior staff knew too, the ROC was amended to suggest these were not senior enough, or not the appropriate staff, she said.

The court would not have known the “depths of the deception” by the US, except for an investigation by Meng herself, Duckett said.

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That was a reference to Meng’s pursuit of a trove of HSBC documents that she obtained as a result of a Hong Kong lawsuit against the bank. The material was previously rejected by Holmes as evidence in the committal hearings, but serves to inform the third-branch arguments.

The US behaviour was “particularly egregious”, said Duckett, because it was designed “to trick the court to make the case seem stronger ... those acts were done at a time, we say, that the requesting state knew the true facts”.

American interests in the extradition case are represented by lawyers from Canada’s Department of Justice, including Robert Frater, the department’s chief general counsel. Representing Meng is an all-star team of prominent lawyers headed by Richard Peck, who has argued some of Canada’s most famous and controversial cases.

Meng, who denies the US charges, is said by her lawyers to be the victim of a four-branch abuse of process.

In addition to the claims about the ROC, they are that the US case is a politically tainted process that was intended by former US president Donald Trump to help win his trade war with China; that Meng’s Canadian Charter rights were violated by police and border officers; and that the prosecution is contrary to international law.

The Canadian government’s lawyers have said that various arguments about the merits of the case should be made at Meng’s trial, not her extradition proceedings.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Canadian Department of Justice said the extradition process “speaks to the independence of Canada’s judicial system”.

″(The) minister of justice does not make any decisions related to an extradition proceeding until and unless the judge commits Ms Meng for extradition,” a spokesman said. “Ms Meng has been and will continue to be afforded a fair process before the Supreme Court of British Columbia in accordance with Canadian law.”

Huawei Canada said on Wednesday that the company “remains confident in Ms Meng’s innocence. We will, as always, continue to support Ms Meng’s pursuit of justice and freedom.”

Meng’s airport arrest on December 1, 2018, on a stopover between Hong Kong and Mexico, infuriated China’s government, which has repeatedly demanded her release. Within days, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor had been detained in China; they were put on trial for espionage this year, although verdicts have not been announced.

Canada has said the men are victims of arbitrary detention and “hostage diplomacy”.

Wednesday marks 977 days since Meng was arrested. She is living in Vancouver under partial house arrest in a C$13.7 million (US$10.9 million) home she owns; she once held Canadian permanent residency, but the court has heard this status expired.

University of British Columbia Professor Michael Byers, the Canada research chair in global politics and international law, said the extradition case would likely end up being appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, where it could become an important precedent regarding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

He predicted that “Ms Meng is going to be enjoying her mansion in Vancouver for the indefinite future.”

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

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