VANCOUVER – The chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei will be back in a Canadian court on Wednesday for a final round of hearings on her possible extradition to the United States, after nearly three years of court battles and diplomatic sparring.
Meng Wanzhou (picture), the daughter of company founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, is fighting extradition to the United States, which wants to try her for bank fraud and conspiracy for allegedly concealing her company’s business dealings, through a subsidiary, in Iran.
If transferred to the United States for trial and subsequently convicted, she could face more than 30 years in a US prison.
Her arrest on a US warrant during a Vancouver stopover in December 2018 – and China’s subsequent detention of two Canadians – caused a major diplomatic rift between Ottawa and Beijing.
Meng is due to appear before the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Wednesday for more than two weeks of hearings.
The 49-year-old has denied any wrongdoing, and her defense team says abuses by Canadian and US officials have denied her due process, and therefore the US extradition request should be quashed.
“The narrative can simply no longer survive scrutiny,” her lawyer Mark Sandler argued in June. “There is no plausible case for committal.”
– ‘Unsubstantiated, redacted allegations’ –
Meng stands accused of defrauding HSBC by falsely misrepresenting links between Huawei and Skycom, a subsidiary that sold telecoms equipment to Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Tehran as it continued to clear US dollar transactions for Huawei.
But her attorneys say that the United States has no jurisdiction and that her rights have not been respected. The case has taken many turns in the almost three years since her arrest.
Her attorneys also argue that remarks by former US president Donald Trump 10 days after Meng’s arrest — in which he said he might intervene in her case in exchange for Chinese trade concessions — “poisoned” the case.
Meng has nevertheless remained outside prison walls but under constant surveillance in her mansion in the western Canadian coastal city. She must wear an ankle monitoring bracelet at all times.
Canada meanwhile says Meng’s evidence and allegations “can really only be properly litigated before a US trial judge” and do not belong in a routine extradition procedure.
“They are requesting this court be turned into a trial court… not based on anything but unsubstantiated, redacted allegations,” said Robert Frater, a lawyer for Canada’s attorney general, in April.
The case has sparked an unprecedented crisis between Beijing and Ottawa, as Canada has found itself squeezed between China and the United States.
Just days after Meng’s arrest, the Chinese government imprisoned two Canadians on espionage charges – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor.
The arrests were seen by Ottawa as retaliation for Meng’s detention, which Beijing denies.
Both Canadians have been tried, but the verdicts are still unknown.
China has also blocked billions of dollars in Canadian agricultural exports.
Both the Chinese government and Huawei, the world’s largest supplier of telecom networking gear, have consistently denied the US accusations.
Beijing has charged that Washington’s primary aim in pursuing Meng is to weaken Chinese tech companies, calling the whole case “a serious political incident.”
The final round of hearings in Meng’s case are scheduled to end August 20. But a decision is not expected for several weeks, and any fresh appeal could mean the procedure would drag on even longer.