RCMP sergeant claims officer told her Meng Wanzhou’s electronic device info sent to FBI


The RCMP sergeant who oversaw Meng Wanzhou’s arrest says the officer responsible for securing the Huawei executive’s phones told her the serial numbers attached to Meng’s electronic devices were sent to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf insisted in B.C. Supreme Court Wednesday that after reviewing emails relating to the custody of Meng’s phones and laptop, she satisfied herself nothing improper had happened.

The testimony addressed conflicting evidence surrounding a note that has been held up by Meng’s lawyers as a smoking gun in their efforts to prove Canadian and U.S. authorities conspired to violate their client’s rights by sharing information in breach of the Extradition Act.

‘Inconsistent’ with sending serial numbers

In the days following Meng’s arrest at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, 2018, Vander Graaf wrote in her contemporaneous notes that Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal told her a colleague, Staff Sgt. Ben Chang, “provided” serial numbers for Meng’s electronic devices to the FBI.

Dhaliwal has since testified that Chang never told him any such thing and couldn’t remember telling Vander Graaf he had. Chang, who is refusing to testify, has sworn an affidavit saying he never sent the information.

Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf was overseeing the RCMP unit responsible for arresting Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1, 2018. She is testifying in B.C. Supreme Court about the arrest and the alleged sharing of information with the FBI. (Felicity Don)

Vander Graaf recalled the conversation with Dhaliwal Wednesday. 

She said it prompted her to request copies of his emails, which she claimed “clarified” that Chang had been tasked with helping the FBI go through official channels to access the exhibits.

“It didn’t say that Ben Chang had provided serial numbers,” Vander Graaf said.

“That’s what I believe this email told me. So it was inconsistent a bit with what Const. Dhaliwal had said about sharing directly the serial numbers.”

Alleged abuses of process

The testimony about the exhibits came at the outset of what turned out to be a long day of cross-examination about the manner in which Meng was arrested and the degree to which the FBI was involved.

Meng is charged with fraud and conspiracy in relation to allegations that she lied to an HSBC banker about Huawei’s control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

CBSA officers asked Meng for the passcodes for her phones when they seized her electronic devices. They later passed those codes in error to the RCMP. (B.C. Supreme Court)

U.S prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng’s alleged lies to continue a financial relationship with Huawei, HSBC was placed at risk of loss and prosecution.

Vander Graaf is one of 10 officers from the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency expected to take the stand in advance of a hearing next spring during which Meng’s lawyers will attempt to end extradition proceedings because of alleged abuses of process.

The defence claims the RCMP ignored instructions from the judge who ordered that the warrant for Meng’s arrest should be executed “immediately” — allowing CBSA officers to question her for three hours without a lawyer and without informing her that she was facing criminal charges.

‘I don’t believe that happened’

The FBI asked the RCMP to ensure that Meng’s phones were seized and placed in special bags to prevent them being wiped remotely.

But the CBSA also obtained passcodes for the devices, which they later claimed to have given to the RCMP in error.

This phone was one of two seized from Meng when she landed at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018. The defence has accused the RCMP of sending the FBI technical information related to the devices. (B.C. Supreme Court)

One of Meng’s lawyers, Scott Fenton, suggested to Vander Graaf Wednesday that the RCMP asked the CBSA officers to get the passcodes.

He also suggested that police wanted Meng kept in the dark about the real reason she was being pulled aside for an immigration exam.

“The RCMP and the CBSA agreed that they would not tell Ms. Meng about the provisional arrest warrant so Ms. Meng would be deceived into thinking it was a bona fide customs exam only,” Fenton said.

“No, I have no recollection of that happening,” Vander Graaf replied. “And I don’t believe that happened.”

‘Immediately’ could have meant 2 days

The exchanges between Fenton and Vander Graaf grew increasingly tense as the RCMP officer admitted she didn’t read the provisional arrest warrant — and the word “immediately” — until the morning Meng landed on Canadian soil.

She said her understanding of “immediate” was “as soon as practicable.”

But the officer said she understood the CBSA had to begin the process of immigration admissibility before Meng could be handed into police custody.

Fenton has suggested there was never any doubt Meng would wind up in RCMP custody. And that the CBSA questions were a ruse.

“So you interpreted and understood the order meaning that if the CBSA took two days to process Ms. Meng, it would still be immediate arrest, if you arrested right after?” Fenton said.

“That could be,” Vander Graaf replied.

Vander Graaf’s cross-examination broke off for the day as Fenton began asking questions about the serial numbers.

In previous court appearances, the defence has argued that the FBI could use the technical information from Meng’s electronic devices for its investigation.

Meng has denied the allegations against her.

Read more at CBC.ca