A B.C. Supreme Court judge signed off Tuesday on a schedule that will see extradition proceedings against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou play out well into 2021.
According to a joint plan presented by defence lawyers and Crown attorneys, hearings related to document disclosure will take place in two levels of court in July and August in the lead up to a three-week hearing next February on allegations Meng’s rights have been violated.
The U.S. wants to extradite the Huawei chief financial officer to New York to face allegations of fraud. She is accused of lying to banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company that was violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.
Prosecutors claim Meng’s alleged lies placed banks at risk of loss and prosecution.
Abuse of process
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes allowed the extradition process to continue last month by finding that Meng’s alleged offence would have been considered a crime if it happened in Canada, meeting the bar of so-called “double criminality” needed for extradition.
The next major step in the process is a chance for the defence to argue that the case should be tossed because of three different types of alleged violations of Meng’s rights.
But to get to that point, defence and Crown lawyers will lock horns for months over documents and procedure.
Meng’s lawyers claim that U.S. and Canadian authorities conspired to mount a covert criminal investigation against the 48-year-old when she was detained by border agents and then arrested by RCMP in the hours after she landed in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, on what was supposed to be a stopover on flights between Hong Kong and Latin America.
They also claim that U.S. President Donald Trump is using Meng as a bargaining chip in a trade war with China, telling reporters he would be willing to intervene in the case if might result in a better deal.
Finally, last week, Meng’s lawyers unveiled a third branch of alleged abuse, claiming that the U.S. had deliberately misled the court about the facts of the case in the initial documents it filed to get the proceedings underway.
Document deletions debated
The plan includes arguments in federal court July 16 and 17 over redactions in documents the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has provided about its knowledge of the case.
Canada’s attorney general is citing national security as a justification to keep some of those details secret.
The defence has said the records point to CSIS having advance knowledge of Meng’s arrest and working with the other agencies to violate Meng’s rights.
Beginning Aug. 17, Holmes will hear a similar set of arguments over privilege attached to documents the Crown has been ordered to release to the defence in the lead-up to the abuse of process arguments.
In late September, the defence will spend a week arguing for a separate chance to make charter arguments around what it claims are lies and distortions in the U.S. record of the case.
One of the most significant hearings in the case is expected to take place over three weeks, starting on Feb. 16. At that point, the defence will make its arguments about Meng’s arrest and Trump’s alleged interference.
Depending on the results of the September hearing, they may also argue about the record of the case itself.
‘The Ivanka Trump of China’
The defence allegations of political interference were bolstered this week with the release of portions of a new book by Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton.
At one point in the memoir, Bolton recalls a Christmas dinner in the week following Meng’s arrest in which Trump allegedly spoke about the pressure the case would create, calling Meng “the Ivanka Trump of China” — a reference to his daughter.
The final step in the extradition court proceedings, if necessary, is a hearing on committal, scheduled for a week, beginning Apr. 26, 2021. At that point, Holmes would be expected to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution in the United States.
Meng’s next court appearance is on Aug. 17. In the meantime, she remains under house arrest, living in one of two multi-million dollar mansions she owns in Vancouver and trailed by round-the-clock security guards.
As the case drags out, the situation of two Canadians who have been detained in China since the days after Meng’s arrest has become increasingly dire. This week, the Chinese government charged former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor with spying.
In an interview with the CBC, Kovrig’s wife — from whom he was separated at the time of his detention — said she believes Ottawa could be doing more to secure the men’s freedom.
China claims there is no link between the cases but has expressed anger with Meng’s arrest and called on Canada to end the extradition proceedings.
If Holmes does decide that Meng should be committed for extradition, Canada’s justice minister would then make the final decision on whether to surrender her for trial.