First stage of extradition hearing for top Huawei exec ends

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Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home to go to B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Thursday, January, 23, 2020. Wanzhou is in court for hearings over an American request to extradite the executive of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei on fraud charges. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — A Canadian judge said Thursday she will announce her decision at a later date after ending the first phase of an extradition hearing that will decide whether a top executive of Chinese tech giant Huawei is sent to the United States.

This week’s hearings dealt with the question of whether the U.S. charges against Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, are crimes in Canada as well. Her lawyers argued the case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. They maintain since Canada does not have similar sanctions against Iran, no fraud occurred.

Canada arrested Huawei’s chief financial officer in December 2018 at Vancouver’s airport at the request of the U.S. as she was changing flights.

The U.S. Justice Department accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 47, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

On Wednesday, Canadian Department of Justice lawyer Robert Frater told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that fraud is at the heart of the case and by lying to the bank, Meng put the bank at risk.

Frater said sanctions were the reason for the meeting with the bank, but it is the alleged misrepresentation that matters to the United States.

But defense lawyer Scott Fenton said Thursday when the federal government asked a judge to issue an arrest warrant for Meng in 2018, the documents focused on the U.S. sanctions driving the risk to HSBC. Fenton said now the federal government is telling a different story.

“The court is being embarrassed,” Fenton said. “There can be no fraud here because all risk to HSBC is based on underlining US sanctions risk which cannot exist in Canada.”

Homes said she would reserve her decision.

If the judge rules that what Meng is charged with is not a crime in Canada, Meng will be free to leave Canada.

Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of the two Vancouver mansions she owns, waved to the public on the way in the courtroom.

The second phase of her extradition hearing, scheduled for June, will consider defense allegations that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated Meng’s rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested.

Beijing views Meng’s case as an attempt to contain China’s rise. Huawei represents China’s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security concerns for years.

Meng denies the U.S. allegations. The U.S. Department of Justice has stressed that Meng’s case is separate from the wider China-U.S. trade dispute.

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for cellphone and internet companies. Washington is pressuring other countries to limit use of its technology, warning they could be opening themselves up to surveillance and theft.

China and the U.S. reached a “Phase 1” trade agreement last week, but most analysts say any meaningful resolution of the main U.S. allegation — that Beijing uses predatory tactics in its drive to supplant America’s technological supremacy — could require years of contentious talks.

In apparent retaliation for Meng’s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. The two men have been denied access to lawyers and family and are being held in prison cells where the lights are kept on 24 hours a day.

China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed and meat. Last January, China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.

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