Huawei Executive Returns to Court in Extradition Case
A Huawei executive is expected to appear in a Vancouver courtroom on Wednesday for a hearing about her potential extradition to the United States, a case that has complicated already tense relations between Canada and China.
Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, was arrested by Canadian officials in Vancouver in December, after the United States requested her extradition on fraud charges. It has since accused her of, among other things, fraudulently deceiving four banks to enable Huawei to evade American sanctions against Iran, and has accused Huawei of stealing trade secrets and obstructing a criminal investigation.
Wednesday’s proceeding is not the extradition hearing itself but a proceeding to discuss next steps in the case.
While awaiting a decision on her extradition — which could take many months — Ms. Meng has been out on bail of 10 million Canadian dollars, living in Vancouver in her $6 million, six-bedroom home. She can roam fairly freely about the city, although under 24-hour surveillance and wearing a GPS tracker on her ankle.
Incensed by Ms. Meng’s arrest, China has retaliated by arresting two Canadians, accusing them of espionage, while also sentencing two other Canadians to death on drug-related accusations.
China is also using its economic might to punish Canada. Recently, Beijing halted shipments of Canadian canola oil, saying they were contaminated; China bought about $2.7 billion worth of canola oil from Canada last year.
China has also suspended the permits of two large Canadian pork producers.
And when the Canadian agriculture minister recently requested a trade visit to China, Canadian officials said the request was ignored.
All the while, President Trump is trying to hammer out a trade deal with China, and Canada is concerned that its citizens have become pawns in a geopolitical and economic battle between the United States and China in which Canada is paying a heavy price.
Shortly after Ms. Meng’s arrest, Mr. Trump said he might consider interceding in the case if that helped him make a trade deal with China. Ms. Meng’s lawyers have used his comment to bolster their argument that the criminal charges against Ms. Meng are politically motivated, which could possibly help her case.
In recent weeks, senior Canadian officials have expressed annoyance that the United States, a critical ally, is not doing enough to help secure the release of the two arrested Canadians — Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, and Michael Spavor, a businessman.
In an interview this week with Reuters, Canada’s ambassador to Washington, David MacNaughton, expressed concern that Canada remained “in the dark” as to whether Mr. Trump was prepared to drop charges against Ms. Meng as part of a “plea deal.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tacitly warned the Trump administration not to link Ms. Meng’s fate to a potential trade deal. “Any effort to somehow suggest that a justice issue should be mixed up with influence of trade issues is entirely inappropriate,” she said.
On Sunday, Mr. Trump threatened to impose new tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods. Canadian officials say privately that they fear Mr. Trump could use Ms. Meng as a bargaining chip in the trade talks, without sufficiently addressing the case of the detained Canadians.
“Canada is appealing to the U.S. for help but it is in a weak position and doesn’t have a lot of cards to play,” said Wenran Jiang, a senior fellow at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. “It can’t control Trump, and retaliating against China risks escalating tensions even more.”
Legal experts said that, under Canadian law, Ms. Meng faces an uphill struggle to avoid extradition.
“Due to Canadian extradition law, extradition is a stacked deck against the defendant, in this case Ms. Meng, because the evidence the defense can introduce is very limited,” said Gary Botting, a leading extradition expert who has written several textbooks on Canadian extradition law and has advised Ms. Meng’s legal team. “An extradition hearing is not a trial.”
Nevertheless, he noted that the final decision on extradition rested with Canada’s justice minister, making it inevitable, he said, that politics could intervene in a proceeding that Canadian authorities have been at pains to emphasize must adhere to the rule of law.
“The politicization of the case is her best defense,” he said.
He said he also expected her lawyers to emphasize the argument made in a separate civil case that Canadian authorities breached Ms. Meng’s constitutional rights to due process when they stopped her while she was in transit, seizing her electronic devices, detaining her for three hours before she was arrested and denying her immediate access to a lawyer.
He cited a 2001 case of four men arrested in Canada and wanted in the United States in connection with a $22 million telemarketing fraud scheme.
Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the United States had lost its right to extradite the men after a Pennsylvania prosecutor warned during the extradition process that the men could be raped in jail if they didn’t surrender quietly.
“Their extradition hearing was compromised because the U.S. prosecutor interfered with their due process in a Canadian court,” Mr. Botting explained.
Referring to the manner in which Ms. Meng was arrested, he said her lawyers were likely to make a similar argument.