Canada to hold first hearing in Huawei extradition case
Chinese technology executive Meng Wanzhou is set to appear in a Vancouver courtroom Wednesday for the first hearing in an extradition process that has put Canada squarely in the middle of a standoff between the United States and China.
The focus Wednesday is expected to be on scheduling the series of hearings that will determine whether Meng, who serves as chief financial officer for Huawei Technologies, will be extradited to the United States to face charges that she conspired to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
It is possible, however, that her lawyers will use the opportunity to outline elements of their defense.
Meng’s legal team last week issued a statement objecting to the extradition process. The defense lawyers cited what they called the “political nature” of the charges and highlighted President Trump’s suggestion that Meng could be released as part of a broader U.S.-China deal.
“The President of the United States has repeatedly stated that he would interfere in Ms. Meng’s case if he thought it would assist the U.S. negotiations with China over a trade deal,” the statement said.
The statement also hinted that her team would argue that the allegations against Meng constitute a crime in the United States, but not in Canada. It said this was “an affront to the foundational extradition principle of double constitutionality.”
Meng also filed a separate, civil suit against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Border Services Agency and the federal government alleging that her constitutional rights were violated when she was detained in Vancouver.
Canadian prosecutors have not commented on the case since December, when Meng appeared for a bail hearing.
At that time, the prosecutors argued that Meng committed fraud in 2013 by misstating Huawei’s relationship with a Hong Kong-based company, Skycom, which reportedly was selling U.S. goods to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.
Meng’s lawyers denied the charges, saying that Huawei sold Skycom in 2009.
The technology executive’s court appearance will be closely watched in Ottawa, Washington and Beijing.
Since news broke of Meng’s Dec. 1 arrest at Vancouver’s airport, Canada and China have been locked in an escalating diplomatic dispute over her fate.
China denounced her detention and has called for her release. Canada has countered that it is bound by an extradition treaty with the United States, casting the case as a legal matter, not a political one.
Not long after Meng’s arrest, China arrested two Canadians in China on vague security charges widely seen as retaliatory. A Canadian serving jail time for drug smuggling was later resentenced and given the death penalty in a surprise, one-day trial.
After Canadian authorities gave the go-ahead for the extradition process to start, China offered more details on the charges facing the two Canadians being held on security grounds. They are suspected of stealing state secrets, Chinese authorities said Monday.
All this comes at a time when the United States is engaged in tense trade negotiations with China. Trump has suggested that he could or would cut a deal for her release in exchange for trade concessions — a plan that appears to run counter to U.S. Justice Department aims.
In January, the U.S. government unveiled a 13-count indictment against Huawei, two affiliates and Meng, alleging bank and wire fraud. It also charged the company with violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. A separate indictment accused Huawei affiliates of stealing trade secrets.