Nearly 1,000 days after her arrest, the extradition hearing for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou got underway Wednesday morning in a Vancouver courtroom.
Over the next week, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes will hear arguments from Meng’s defence team and the Attorney General of Canada on whether there is enough evidence to extradite Meng to the U.S. to face fraud charges, a decision known as “committal.”
Essentially, Holmes must decide whether or not there is enough evidence to commit Meng for trial in Canada, had her alleged crimes occurred here.
According to documents previously filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Meng’s lawyers plan argue that the U.S. has failed to meet that threshold.
They say the evidence presented shows no deception by Meng, no loss by HSBC bank, and “not even a plausible theory of risk.”
Meng is accused of misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with Skycom, a subsidiary doing business in Iran, to HSBC bank.
U.S. prosecutors say her actions put the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions in that country.
Meng has repeatedly denied the charges.
Lawyers for Canada’s Attorney General plan to argue that there is some evidence that shows Meng “deliberately made dishonest representations” to the bank.
On Wednesday, Robert Frater, Q.C., told Holmes: “The evidence of dishonesty in this case is abundantly clear.”
In its written submissions, Crown added that an extradition hearing is not a trial and judges are not meant to weigh the strength of a case or whether or not it might ultimately succeed.
Richard Kurland, an immigration lawyer who has been watching the case closely, noted that based on the judge’s questioning of Frater regarding what she said appeared to be inconsistent or vague evidence, he believed the decision could go either way.
“(The judge) is now entering an evidentiary questioning process that’s now dismantling, deconstructing the Crown’s case for extradition.”
The hearing began less than 24 hours after Canadian businessman Michael Spavor was convicted on spying charges in China, and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Spavor has been jailed in China, along with another Canadian, former diplomat Michael Kovrig, since 2018.
Their arrests and trials are widely seen as retaliatory for Meng’s arrest in Canada.
A Huawei spokesperson told CTV News the company had no comment on the verdict and, unusually, declined to make anyone available for an interview outside court.
Earlier this week, a death sentence for a third Canadian held in China on drug trafficking charges, Robert Schellenberg, was also upheld.