Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou – the Huawei executive at the centre of an extradition battle that has poisoned relations between Canada and China – have argued that officials misled her when she was detained at Vancouver airport.
Before Meng was formally arrested on 1 December, she was questioned for nearly three hours by Canadian border agents. She was also asked to surrender her electronic devices, which border agents searched.
By leading her to believe her detention and questioning were immigration-related — and not the result of a US arrest warrant – police effectively violated her rights under Canada’s charter, her legal team said in court filings.
“There [was] nothing routine about this,” Meng’s lawyer, Richard Peck, told the court, accusing the government of engaging in a “covert criminal investigation” under the pretext of immigration issues.
Canada’s attorney general has defended law enforcement’s handling of the case, telling the court that an arrest warrant can be executed after a person has passed through customs – as was the case with Meng. The government also argued that the sharing of information between border security agents and the FBI – while Meng was still being questioned – was lawful.
“There is no evidence that the conduct of officials, either Canadian or foreign, has compromised the fairness of the extradition proceedings,” said the government in a court filing.
Meng’s legal team are demanding the release of additional documentation, which they believe supports the claim her arrest was constitutionally problematic.
Government lawyers have rejected the request, telling the court they have already provided the defence with handwritten notes from police and border officers, as well as video footage from the airport. Any requests for additional information were merely a “fishing expedition” by the defence, they said.
“No purpose would be served in providing further disclosure,” the attorney general said in court filings.
The strategy to fight her arrest on constitutional grounds is separate from the broader extradition fight, which is scheduled to begin on 20 January.
For months, Meng has been fighting extradition to the United States, where she faces fraud charges. American officials allege she misled bankers about her company’s dealings in Iran.
If Justice Heather Holmes of the British Columbia supreme court sides with Meng in this particular case, the extradition proceedings against her would probably have to be thrown out – avoiding what many experts believe will be a costly, multi-year legal fight.
In addition to souring relations between the United States and China, Meng’s arrest has also significantly damaged the relationship between Canada and China. Once close to signing a free trade deal, China has since detained two Canadians – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – on espionage charges and halted canola and pork imports from Canada.