Huawei's Meng Wanzhou fear cameras in Canadian court would trigger threats from Donald Trump

Lawyers for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou are fighting an application to allow video broadcasting of her extradition battle in a Canadian court, saying it could draw the attention of Donald Trump and risk his making a “threatening and intimidating” intervention in her case.

The argument came in response to a bid by a media consortium that includes the South China Morning Post to allow cameras into the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Meng, who was arrested in Vancouver last December, is attempting to thwart a US bid for her extradition from Canada to face fraud charges related to Huawei’s alleged breaching of US sanctions on Iran.

The documents were released this week, as well as more details of how Meng plans to fight the extradition case by arguing that it fails the test of “double criminality”.

This approach requires that the alleged offences in an extradition case must be capable of amounting to a crime in Canada, and not just the requesting state.

Meng is due to return to court on January 20, when her lawyers say they will argue that the US “cannot show double criminality”, and is instead trying to “dress up … a sanctions-breaking complaint as a case of fraud”.

The Post and 12 fellow media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper and others, have applied to allow cameras to cover those proceedings.

Lawyer Daniel Coles, representing the consortium, said in a submission that allowing the broadcast would further the “open court principle” that using cameras in Canadian courts is a longstanding practice, and public interest in Meng’s case is significant.

The broadcast would be carried out by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, on behalf of the consortium.

US President Donald Trump might try to make a “threatening and intimidating intervention” in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition trial if it were broadcast, the Huawei CFO’s lawyers have argued. Photo: AP alt=US President Donald Trump might try to make a “threatening and intimidating intervention” in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition trial if it were broadcast, the Huawei CFO’s lawyers have argued. Photo: AP

But Meng’s lawyers and those for the Canadian attorney general who seek Meng’s extradition on behalf of the US are united in opposition to the request. Their arguments were released on Tuesday.

“If the Respondent’s [Meng’s] extradition hearing is broadcast, this will only increase the public scrutiny she faces and the attention her matter receives from officials in the United States,” Meng’s lawyers said.

Such a broadcast “amplifies the risk that the President of the United States will once again intervene in the Respondent’s case, or harbour resentments that are both threatening and intimidating,” they added.

That was a reference to US President Trump’s previous comments, in which he suggested he might intervene in the case to help strike a trade deal with China.

Meng’s lawyers said he “politicised and sensationalised these proceedings by making public statements to the effect that the Respondent is merely a bargaining chip in geopolitical relations between the world’s two superpowers, the United States and Canada”.

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general said in a submission that they shared Meng’s concerns that a broadcast risked “distorting the proceedings and the serenity of the court process”.

“The Attorney General of Canada acknowledges that there is significant interest in this matter, but that alone does not justify the request for live broadcasting of the proceedings,” they said.

Meng, the chief financial officer of telecoms giant Huawei and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at Vancouver’s international airport on December 1 last year, at the US’ request, triggering outrage from Beijing.

Her detention, which came amid the ongoing trade war with the US, has thrown China-Canada relations into turmoil. Canadian ambassador John McCallum was fired last January after he told journalists that he thought Meng had a strong case and listed arguments she might make to thwart extradition.

Meng remains under partial house arrest in Vancouver after she was detained last year at the behest of American authorities. Photo: AP alt=Meng remains under partial house arrest in Vancouver after she was detained last year at the behest of American authorities. Photo: AP

One plank of Meng’s case is the double criminality test. In a submission made on November 13 but only released on Thursday, her lawyers said the accusation of fraud against her would have represented no crime in Canada.

Similar arguments have been sketched out in preliminary hearings.

The US alleges that Meng lied to banking giant HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with Iran-based affiliate Skycom, causing the bank to process transactions that it otherwise would have not, because of the risk of breaching US sanctions on Iran.

But because Canada does not enforce sanctions on Iran, “under Canadian law [Meng’s alleged actions] caused no risk of deprivation in Canada”.

Meng’s lawyers said they only accept the US’ claims about Meng’s actions for the purpose of making the double criminality argument.

“[The] transactions processed by HSBC for Huawei were not illegal in Canada. The USA had unique sanctions laws against Iran that proscribed HSBC’s transactions, but Canada did not,” the lawyers said.

The meeting with HSBC in which Meng discussed Skycom took place in Hong Kong. But had it occurred in Canada “HSBC would not face any potential liability under Canadian sanctions law”, her lawyers said.

Meng’s extradition case is currently scheduled to continue until October 2020. She remains in Vancouver where she is living in her C$13 million (US$9.7 million) home under guard. She is allowed to travel around the city while wearing a GPS monitor on her ankle, but must comply with a curfew, and she is banned from going near the city’s airport.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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