A Canadian police officer involved in the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has denied telling border officers to keep the warrant secret from her, to prevent Meng from obtaining legal advice until after an immigration examination and the seizure of her electronic devices.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal was in charge of evidence seized by the border officers from Meng – including her two phones, iPad, Apple laptop and a memory stick – before she was arrested on a US warrant at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018.
Meng’s lawyer Scott Fenton contended in a hearing at the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Tuesday that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) was told by the RCMP not to tell Meng she was going to be arrested “because that could have triggered an interest by Ms Meng in speaking to counsel”.
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Instead she was only told after the CBSA examination, which lasted almost three hours, during which border officers asked her about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, seized her devices and obtained the passwords to them.
A note of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s electronic device passwords, written by Canada border officer Scott Kirkland before Meng’s arrest at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. Photo: BC Supreme Court alt=A note of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s electronic device passwords, written by Canada border officer Scott Kirkland before Meng’s arrest at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. Photo: BC Supreme Court
“My proposition is that’s because the RCMP asked the CBSA … to keep it discreet, to keep it secret,” Fenton said.
“I did not do anything of that sort,” Dhaliwal responded.
Dhaliwal is testifying for a third day in the extradition hearing for Meng, the chief financial officer for Huawei Technologies, who is accused by the US of defrauding HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, which exposed the bank to the risk of violating sanctions against Iran. She denies the charges, and is fighting US attempts to have her extradited to face trial in New York.
Her lawyers say that Meng is the victim of a covert operation by the RCMP and the CBSA – orchestrated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation – to obtain evidence against her without her first being told of the warrant.
They contend that this violated her rights and was an abuse of process, and that she should be freed as a result.
Dhaliwal agreed with Fenton that the RCMP could have “easily” arrested Meng as she stepped off her flight from Hong Kong, instead of after the immigration exam. This would have resulted in Meng being read her rights on the spot, Dhaliwal agreed, and she could have been taken to the CBSA inspection afterwards.
Meng Wanzhou’s MacBook computer is seen in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police photo after it was seized from her at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. Photo: BC Supreme Court alt=Meng Wanzhou’s MacBook computer is seen in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police photo after it was seized from her at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. Photo: BC Supreme Court
Constable Winston Yep, Dhaliwal’s partner who arrested Meng after the immigration exam, testified last month that there were safety reasons not to arrest Meng on the jetway or on the plane.
But Fenton suggested to Dhaliwal that no “realistic” safety concerns were involved in arresting Meng on the jetway. “You have no idea how people are going to react,” Dhaliwal answered.
“There were no indications Ms Meng would be violent, for instance,” Fenton said, and Meng had already been subject to an airport security check before getting on her flight in Hong Kong.
Nor were there any indication Meng was carrying a weapon, Fenton added. Dhaliwal agreed.
Before Dhaliwal’s testimony resumed on Tuesday, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes discussed problems posed by the protracted nature of the case, under way now for almost two years. It is currently scheduled to have its final hearings on April 30, 2021, though appeals could drag out the process for years beyond that.
But both Meng’s defence and the Canadian government lawyers representing the US say more court time may be needed for the case.
Meng Wanzhou’s Apple iPhone that was seized at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. It is seen resting on a mylar Faraday bag, designed to prevent its contents from being remotely wiped or altered. Photo: BC Supreme Court alt=Meng Wanzhou’s Apple iPhone that was seized at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. It is seen resting on a mylar Faraday bag, designed to prevent its contents from being remotely wiped or altered. Photo: BC Supreme Court
Holmes said she worried about “building in an enormous gap” between the witness evidence in the abuse-of-process argument now being presented, and her having to assess submissions about the argument next year.
She asked for an aide-memoire – a submission made by counsel to assist a judge recalling complex evidence – to be compiled, saying “it’s simply too long between now and then”.
Fenton said that the extended nature of the litigation was neither side’s fault. “Certain uncertainties have arisen, through no one’s fault,” he said.
Meng is living under partial house arrest in one of the two houses she owns in Vancouver.
Meng’s treatment has infuriated China. Soon after her detention, Beijing arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and accused them of spying. Ottawa considers the arrests retaliatory and both men to be victims of hostage-taking.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.