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Meng Wanzhou was unlawfully arrested, defence argues in effort to get documents

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who is out on bail and remains under partial house arrest after she was detained last year at the behest of American authorities, leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver, on Monday, September 23, 2019.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
September 23, 2019 - 3:30 PM

VANCOUVER - Defence lawyers for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou are asking British Columbia Supreme Court to force the release of documents in support of their allegations that she was unlawfully arrested at Vancouver's airport.

Meng, whose arrest has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Canada and China, was granted permission from Justice Heather Holmes to leave the prisoner's box Monday to sit with her counsel while reviewing documents referenced in court.

The court heard that as many as 1,150 pages of documents supporting the Crown's case were expected to be released Monday.

Holmes summarized the Crown's argument, saying the prosecution believes it's a "fishing expedition" and not based on evidence.

However, defence lawyer Richard Peck told the court that the Canada Border Service Agency and RCMP "collaborated, arranged a plan" to deal with Meng in a way that violated the provisional arrest warrant.

"This plan delayed the implementation of Ms. Meng's rights and afforded the CBSA an opportunity to interrogate her and that such information was arranged to be shared with the RCMP and with the FBI," Peck said.

Meng was arrested at the behest of the United States, which is seeking her extradition on fraud charges related to violation of sanctions against Iran.

Both Meng and Chinese tech giant Huawei have denied any wrongdoing and none of the allegations have been tested in court.

Peck told the court border officials compelled the passwords to her electronic devices and handed them to RCMP. They made efforts to obscure the nature of interactions with Meng and omitted details in documents including notes and declarations to fulfil that purpose, he said.

"Lifting language from the authorities, we refer to this as a 'covert criminal investigation' under the pretext of an admissibility exam for immigration purposes," Peck told the court.

Meng wore a royal purple dress to the hearing along with a court-ordered ankle bracelet and sparkling stiletto pumps. She was helped by a translator during the proceeding.

The defence team alleges the misconduct includes delaying the arrest, deceiving Meng about the nature of her detention and abusing their statutory powers in order to collect evidence for a fraud case in the United States.

Peck argued that there's enough evidence to suggest further documents exist to support the argument that Canadian officials acted as agents of U.S. law enforcement.

He pointed to an email that he said is from an FBI agent to a Canadian official.

"It says 'Ben, thank you,' — this is from the FBI — 'thank you for all the work. Appreciate the co-ordination. As soon as a warrant is obtained, the information should be heading to RCMP and CBSA. As soon as the warrant is obtained, I will be providing updates,' " Peck read to the court.

Peck also alleges Meng's arrest is part of a history of American officials' detention of Huawei employees at airports, pointing to "expected testimony" from a confidential witness who says laptops she used while working for Huawei were searched or seized by American officials at ports of entry, including in 2013 and 2018.

Huawei appears to be ramping up its public relations strategy around the case, tweeting out a photo outside her Vancouver home that says, "Ms. Meng walks to media to thank them for waiting in the rain before leaving court."

When she arrived at court, she appeared in good spirits and stopped to speak for several minutes with a pair of supporters.

She smiled at reporters and thanked them for being there, saying she is "fine" when asked how she was doing.

Meng is the chief financial officer of Huawei and the daughter of the company's founder.

Her extradition trial won't begin until Jan. 20 and she is free on bail while living in Vancouver.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 23, 2019.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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