Meng's lawyers slam US charges as fiction in court

AFP
The Chinese telecommunications executive whose arrest in Vancouver badly strained Canada-China relations went to court on Monday to fight extradition to the United States.
AFP

The Chinese telecommunications executive whose arrest in Vancouver badly strained Canada-China relations went to court on Monday to fight extradition to the United States, with her lawyers calling the accusations against her “fiction.”

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of tech giant Huawei and eldest daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, is wanted by US authorities for alleged fraud. Meng made no comment as she rushed past protesters waving “Free Meng” and “Trump stop bullying us” placards outside the British Columbia Supreme Court.

Inside, she sat quietly, following the proceedings with the help of an interpreter. Her attorneys in opening remarks rejected the fraud charges against Meng as “a fiction.”

“Sanctions drive this case,” lead defense lawyer Richard Peck said, as Meng’s husband Liu Xiaozong and Chinese consular officials looked on from a packed public gallery.

“Would we be here in the absence of US sanctions? Our response is no,” he said.

In order to secure her freedom, Meng must convince Judge Heather Holmes that the US charges would not stand up in Canada and are politically motivated. The US alleges Meng lied to HSBC Bank about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Tehran.

Meng has denied the allegations. She has been out on bail.

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general on behalf of the US Justice Department have said they will justify extradition by arguing that the US accusations against Meng would be considered a crime in Canada if they had occurred here — a key test known as double criminality.

On Monday, her defense team began arguing that her misrepresentations, if they occurred, do not amount to fraud, and that Canada had not matched the US sanctions against Iran.

“The US has cast (Meng’s) alleged behavior as a fraud against a bank. This is an artifice,” Peck told the court.

“This case is founded on allegations of breach of US sanctions, which Canada has repudiated,” he said, adding that Canada was effectively being asked “to enforce US sanctions.”

He also argued that HSBC would not be prosecuted in Canada for unwittingly breaking the sanctions and so Meng’s actions caused no harm under its fraud definition.

In court documents, the Crown asserted that Huawei controlled the operations of Skycom in Iran; that its staff used Huawei email accounts and security badges; and its bank accounts were controlled by Huawei. But Meng told HSBC executives in a 2013 presentation that Huawei no longer owned Skycom and that she had resigned from that company’s board.

The hearing in Vancouver is scheduled to last five days.

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