Nothing ‘sinister’ about airport questioning of Huawei exec, Crown argues

Meng Wanzhou was held for three hours, then arrested at request of U.S., which seeks her extradition

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 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The actions of Canadian officials during the arrest of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport were “not at all sinister” and followed their legal obligations, a Crown prosecutor says.

Robert Frater, a lawyer representing the Attorney General of Canada, said the defence has alleged that Canadian and United States officials conspired to conduct a covert criminal investigation at the airport on Dec. 1, 2018.

Border officers held Meng for three hours before the RCMP executed a provisional arrest warrant at the request of the U.S., which is seeking her extradition on fraud charges linked to the alleged violation of sanctions against Iran.

There is “nothing to” the defence allegations that the Mounties and the Canada Border Services agency ignored their legal obligation to execute the arrest warrant immediately or covered up a secret illegal investigation, Frater told a B.C. Supreme Court judge on Monday.

“The RCMP and CBSA carried out their duties in accordance with their statutory obligations,” the lawyer said. “The evidence of a conspiracy is non-existent. Because the conspiracy is non-existent, there was nothing to cover up.”

Meng, who is the Chinese tech giant’s chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, denies any wrongdoing. Her lawyers are in B.C. Supreme Court seeking further documents ahead of her extradition trial in January.

The defence is requesting documents that it believes will prove its allegations of an unlawful arrest and coverup. But the Crown argued that it has already produced voluminous disclosure, including officers’ notes and surveillance video.

Frater said Meng’s questioning at the airport was hardly “covert,” since various activities were videotaped, audio taped and subject to notes, and if it was an “investigation” it produced paltry results.

It produced two statements from Meng, neither of which remotely prejudiced her rights or demonstrated any impropriety by officers involved, he said.

Frater added her electronic devices and passcodes were legally seized, but the items were not searched by the RCMP or border officers. Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation has said it doesn’t want the devices, Canada has been trying for two months to return them to Meng, Frater said.

READ MORE: Nothing ‘routine’ about Meng Wanzhou’s treatment at Vancouver airport: defence

The defence has claimed that the seizure of electronic devices was a U.S. priority that Canada accepted “without question.”

However, Frater said an officer’s notes merely state that evidence should be preserved as there will be a request from the FBI. All these notes establish is that there was co-operation between Canadian and U.S. authorities, because by definition extradition is a form of international co-operation, he said.

The defence’s argument amounts to a “provocatively stated proposition” unsupported by facts that does not advance their case one bit, he said.

“That is the sort of technique that is usually found in the tackle box of someone on a fishing expedition,” he added.

Frater said the defence alleges that on Nov. 30, 2018, the RCMP hatched a plan to board Meng’s plane when it landed and immediately arrest her. He said the defence claims the plan changed during a morning meeting on Dec. 1, when it was decided the border agency would conduct a covert criminal investigation and cover it up.

Although it’s true that border officers present at the meeting didn’t take notes, RCMP officers did take notes that mentioned the border agency’s presence at the table, Frater said.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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