Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was back in a Canadian court on Monday in the final round of her fight against extradition to the United States, with her lawyers challenging the crux of the case – that she allegedly hid the technology giant was doing business in Iran.
The daughter of Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei faces charges in the US of bank fraud and conspiracy for the activities of a former Huawei subsidiary alleged to have violated US sanctions against Iran.
Meng is accused of having lied to the HSBC investment bank about Huawei’s relationship with the unit – Skycom – putting the bank at risk of US sanctions breaches as it continued to clear US dollar transactions for Huawei.
If convicted, she could face more than 30 years in a US prison.
On Monday, defence lawyers argued that Meng could not have deceived HSBC executives at a 2013 Hong Kong tea house meeting because the bank “fully knew” Huawei still effectively controlled Skycom, despite having sold it in 2007 to shell company Canicula Holdings.
“The bank knew that Skycom sold its shares to Canicula, and the bank knew Huawei controlled Canicula’s bank account… [and] Huawei continued to control Skycom from 2007 onward,” defence lawyer Frank Addario told the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
He said that the US claims that Meng “was deceptive about Skycom” or “was trying to hide something about that relationship” were “misleading and unreliable”.
Crown attorney Robert Frater countered that these arguments should be made at trial, and not at the hearing.
Extradition is not a trial
Frater opposed Addario’s call to admit new evidence on Monday afternoon, insisting that an extradition hearing was not a trial. He told the judge she’s “not here to draw inferences about their (the bank employees) state of knowledge”.
Frater argued that Meng’s defence lawyers would have an opportunity to cross-examine bank witnesses about their knowledge of Huawei’s affiliates at trial.
Following testimony from Canadian border officials and police officers involved in the case in late 2020, the latest hearings will also focus on then-President Donald Trump’s alleged interference in the case, as well as outstanding issues from witness testimony and other abuse of process arguments.
The 49-year-old was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 on a US warrant and has been living under house arrest at one of her homes in the city while her case makes its way through Canada’s courts.
Meng’s arrest created tensions between Beijing and Ottawa, and days afterwards China detained two Canadians, who continue to have limited access to legal counsel or diplomatic officials.
Meng’s case is scheduled to conclude in May.