VANCOUVER — The only way for the Canadian justice system to protect its integrity after hearing arguments about widespread misconduct in the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is for proceedings to be stayed, her lawyers argued Monday.
Meng's legal team told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that if she doesn't toss out the case, the court would fail to deter authorities from similar abuses in the future and send the wrong message to its treaty partners.
"Committing Ms. Meng to be surrendered in these circumstances would serve only to manifest, perpetuate and aggravate the misconduct," defence lawyer Tony Paisana said.
"We say there can only be a stay."
The court is in the final stage of arguments before entering the actual extradition hearing for the telecom giant's chief financial officer, whose arrest at Vancouver's airport in 2018 soured Canada's relations with China.
She is wanted in the United States on bank fraud charges that both she and Huawei deny.
The case centres on a meeting between Meng and a senior HSBC executive eight years ago. She is accused of lying about Huawei's control over another company that sold computer equipment in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against that country.
Since her arrest, Meng's team has made multiple efforts to have proceedings stayed, arguing that she suffered abuses at the hand of everyone from the Canadian officials who arrested her to then-U.S. president Donald Trump, who indicated a willingness to intervene in the case if it benefited U.S.-China trade negotiations.
Lawyers for Canada's attorney general have not yet responded in court, but they have previously denied any abuse of process occurred and accused Meng's lawyers of trying to turn her extradition case into a trial.
The court is now hearing arguments from both sides regarding a remedy, should the judge find the abuse of process allegations to be valid. The actual extradition hearing, which is the final step in the B.C. Supreme Court process, is set to wrap up by Aug. 20.
Paisana urged the judge in the case to consider four alleged abuses of process as "branches of the same tree" and assess their cumulative impact.
"The conduct ranged from that of front-line U.S. attorneys drafting court documents and officers tasked with arresting Ms. Meng in conformance with the law, all the way to the president of the United States," Paisana said.
Among the abuses, according to Meng's legal team, Canadian officials improperly questioned Meng before informing her of her arrest, wrongly shared passcodes to her cellphones and took intentionally poor notes. Trump's comments demonstrated political interference, while the U.S. Justice Department omitted key facts in its summary of the case against Meng, misleading Canada, they argued.
Lawyers for Canada's attorney general have responded that Canadian officials acted within the boundaries of their jobs, that Trump's comments are irrelevant now that he is out of office and that challenging the summary of the case would involve weighing evidence better suited for the trial.
"Where misconduct is found across nations and agencies laterally and also vertically up and down the hierarchy of those organizations, we say that must aggravate the abuse. The breadth and height of abuse in this case is one of the more rare aspects of this matter," Paisana said.
Unlike a trial, where the court can approve a reduced sentence or exclude certain evidence, the only appropriate remedy in an extradition case is a stay of proceedings, Paisana said.
Richard Peck, another lawyer for Meng, said Monday that Canada is a country that values the rule of law and allowing the extradition to proceed would send the wrong message to its international partners.
Trump's comments, in particular, suggest Meng has been used as a "bargaining chip," and the B.C. court should not condone that by allowing it to continue, he said.
"To not react to this, to do nothing, demonstrates indifference if not acceptance."
Crown lawyers are expected to respond Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2021.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press