MONTREAL – New extradition hearings of the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei kicked off Wednesday in Vancouver, after nearly three years of court battles and diplomatic sparring.
Meng Wanzhou (picture), 49, the daughter of company founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, is fighting extradition to the United States.
She is accused of defrauding HSBC Bank 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.
Meng appeared smiling Wednesday morning as she left her mansion in the western Canadian coastal city, where she has to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet at all times.
The hearings are being held in the British Columbia Supreme Court over the coming weeks. During the first day, Meng’s defense team again argued that the United States has filed a lawsuit that abused their client’s rights.
“This case is built on misinformation and selectively omitted facts. The arrest of Ms Meng was a master class on how to violate someone’s rights”, Alykhan Velshi, Huawei Canada’s vice president of corporate affairs, told AFP before the proceedings, calling the case a “political prosecution.”
Meng is “our CFO, first and foremost. She’s busy with that. But at the same time she focuses extensively on this case. She has read all the court documents. She shows up in court every day. She’s a very strong person,” he said.
“Counsel for Ms. Meng will argue that the United States has failed to establish a plausible case for prosecution,” Huawei Canada said in a statement Wednesday.
“It follows that committal must be denied and Ms Meng be allowed to return home,” it said.
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.
The hearings are due to end on August 20 but no decision is expected for a few months. And in the event of an appeal, the procedure could take several more years.
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.