VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou returned to a Canadian court on Monday to fight her extradition to the United States, where her lawyers argued she only needs to show supporting evidence to add a new allegation of U.S. abuse of process to the case.
The scheduled five days of so-called Vukelich hearings will help the judge to ultimately decide whether there is an “air of reality,” or possibility that Meng’s accusations are valid, and allow the defense to argue the additional allegation.
Meng, 48, was arrested in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States charging her with bank fraud for misleading HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran and causing the bank to break U.S. sanction law.
The daughter of billionaire Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition from her house arrest in Vancouver.
Meng arrived at the British Columbia Supreme Court wearing a grey vest, striped blouse, a face mask, and knee-length brown trousers that highlighted the ankle monitoring bracelet she has worn since her bail was granted in December 2018.
Scott Fenton, a lawyer for Meng, pointed out in court that the hearing was not intended to be a “detailed examination” of the allegation, only whether there was a “realistic possibility” that it could be sustained.
Fenton said the “elephant in the room” was that Meng and Huawei had not lied and had instead given HSBC all the information needed to assess the risk, contrary to U.S. claims.
The arrest has strained China’s relations with the United States and Canada. Soon after Meng’s detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, charging them with espionage.
In previously submitted court documents, Huawei lawyers argued that the U.S. extradition request was flawed because it omitted key evidence showing Meng did not lie to HSBC about Huawei’s business in Iran.
They used a PowerPoint presentation to show HSBC knew the extent of Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, which they say the United States did not accurately portray in its extradition request to Canada.
Meng’s lawyers claim the case that the United States submitted to Canada is “so replete with intentional and reckless error” that it violates her rights.
Ultimately, Fenton said they will ask for a stay of the extradition or an exclusion of evidence they argue is misleading, although he emphasized that this would come later should the judge approve their request.
Vukelich hearings are rare in extradition cases, said Gary Botting, an extradition lawyer based in Vancouver, but given the complexity of Meng’s case it is not surprising.
The defense’s success “depends entirely on the nature of the evidence … and whether or not there is any substance to their allegations,” Botting added.
Meng’s extradition trial is set to wrap up in April 2021, although if either side appeals the case, it could drag on for years through the Canadian justice system.
Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Tessa Vikander in Vancouver; Editing by Denny Thomas, Diane Craft and Richard Chang