I knew we’d end up in court, says Canada border officer who quizzed Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou before arrest

31-Oct-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 7:28 AM Print This Post

A Canadian border officer who questioned Meng Wanzhou in the hours before her arrest at Vancouver’s airport has testified that he knew the case would end up in court, when he suggested to police that they should take immediate custody of her, worrying that a delay to allow the questioning might be seen as a violation of her rights.

But another border officer contended at the meeting with Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) that there was no rush to hand over Meng, said Scott Kirkland, and the matter did not receive further scrutiny as they rushed to prepare for her arrival on a flight from Hong Kong, about one hour later on December 1, 2018.

Kirkland, testifying on Thursday in Meng’s extradition proceedings in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver, came under intense cross examination from the Huawei executive’s lawyer Mona Duckett, who tried to bolster the argument that Meng’s rights were indeed violated and that her treatment was part of covert plot to gather evidence for US authorities for their fraud case against Meng.

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Meng’s lawyers said Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and the RCMP were operating at the direction of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation on the day of her arrival. Instead of “immediately” arresting Meng, as her arrest warrant said, an RCMP officer waited three hours after she got off a flight from Hong Kong, allowing Kirkland and colleague Sowsmith Katragadda to question her and seize her electronic devices and passwords.

Her lawyers said that because Meng was not told she was about to be arrested, and was not given the opportunity to have a lawyer present, this violated her Canadian Charter rights. The US bid to have her extradited to face fraud charges in New York should be thrown out as a result, they said.

Kirkland said he held these concerns at the pre-arrest meeting with police at Vancouver’s airport.

“I knew it would end up in court, yes,” said Kirkland.

But he called it a “Catch-22″: if the CBSA had indeed handed Meng immediately to the RCMP, then the border agency would similarly be accused of having failed to have done its duty.

Kirkland had testified on Wednesday that the RCMP played no role in how Meng was treated at the border exam. Nor did he have any contact with foreign law enforcers about Meng, he said.

“We made it explicit to them [the RCMP] that they were not to be involved,” Kirkland said on Wednesday.

After Meng’s Cathay Pacific flight landed at 11.10am, Katragadda intercepted her on the jetway at Gate 65, and the border exam with both officers ensued.

Kirkland said on Wednesday the questions asked of Meng were purely intended to determine her admissibility to Canada, as was the seizure of her electronic devices and their passwords. He said he had national security concerns about Meng.

In Thursday’s cross-examination, Kirkland agreed that Meng had entered Canada 52 times from 2001 until October 2018. On no previous occasion had her admission been questioned, he concurred.

“But your concern on this date [December 1, 2018] was espionage,” said Duckett, which Kirkland said was “absolutely correct”.

He agreed, though, that “not an iota” of evidence was ultimately gathered in the examination to support his national security concerns.

Duckett suggested the phones were only seized because the FBI wanted them. “I don’t know if the FBI wanted those phones or not,” said Kirkland, although it was his understanding that the devices and Meng’s other luggage would be going with the RCMP after they arrested her.

Duckett questioned why, if Meng was being subjected to a normal border exam, the nature of medication she had with her was not established, nor the contents of boxes that contained household goods examined.

Kirkland expressed frustration when Duckett again suggested the examination was primarily concerned with seizing Meng’s phones for the FBI. He interrupted an objection by crown counsel representing US interests in the case.

“Let’s make this abundantly clear… All the goods in Ms Meng’s possession, whether they be electronics, they be clothing or furniture, were all going to be transitioned to the RCMP,” Kirkland said.

He added: “Whether the RCMP is going to give them to the FBI… I have no idea.”

Kirkland is the second witness in extradition proceedings being heard by Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, after RCMP Constable Winston Yep, who arrested Meng.

In a separate development, two judgments by Holmes that are related to the extradition case were released on Thursday.

Holmes rejected an application by Canada’s attorney general, acting on behalf of US interests in the case, to have her throw out the so-called third branch of Meng’s arguments against the extradition bid. That argument says Meng suffered an abuse of process, alleging “that the requesting state deliberately misstated or omitted material evidence in the record of the case”.

Holmes refused to summarily dismiss the argument, and will allow it to proceed. The argument is based on claims that the US was deliberately misleading in its Record of the Case (ROC) presented to the court.

In the other application, Meng had sought to add seven pieces of evidence to the extradition case, which the attorney general opposed. Holmes agreed to admit some of that evidence, including portions of a crucial PowerPoint presentation made by Meng to a HSBC executive, but not others.

Meng is accused by the US of defrauding HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran during the presentation, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions. She denies this.

Both applications were related, since the record of the case was challenged on the basis that it gave an incomplete account of the PowerPoint presentation.

“The omission is realistically capable of establishing that the ROC’s summary is unreliable as a representation of Meng’s statements to HSBC,” Holmes ruled, admitting some portions of the presentation but not others.

“Limited portions” of the other evidence were admissible, wrote Holmes.

Meng, 48, is the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies and the daughter of founder Ren Zhengfei.

Her treatment has infuriated Beijing, sending China’s relations with Canada and the US into a downward spiral.

Beijing subsequently arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, accusing them of spying. In Canada, their situation is widely seen as hostage-taking.

Meng is under partial house arrest in Vancouver, living in one of her two homes in the city. Her extradition proceedings are scheduled to last well into next year, but appeals could drag out the process for much longer.

The hearing was adjourned until Friday morning.



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