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Rushed discussion before Huawei CFO's detention missed potential violations, border official says

Scott Kirkland, an officer with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), had told the British Columbia Supreme Court on Wednesday he was worried about allegations of potential civil rights violations being made if the agency intercepted and interviewed Meng before her arrest by Canadian police. But he did not bring this concern up with his superiors, in part because they had less than an hour before Meng's flight landed to decide how to handle her interception, knowing the United States had a warrant out for her arrest.

Reuters | Ottawa | Updated: 30-10-2020 03:00 IST | Created: 30-10-2020 02:08 IST
Rushed discussion before Huawei CFO's detention missed potential violations, border official says
Representative image. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The impending arrival of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at a Canadian airport two years ago meant discussions about the best way to apprehend her, including potential civil rights violations, had to be cut short, a border officer told a court on Thursday. Scott Kirkland, an officer with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), had told the British Columbia Supreme Court on Wednesday he was worried about allegations of potential civil rights violations being made if the agency intercepted and interviewed Meng before her arrest by Canadian police.

But he did not bring this concern up with his superiors, in part because they had less than an hour before Meng's flight landed to decide how to handle her interception, knowing the United States had a warrant out for her arrest. "It was a rushed discussion, we had very little time to get ready for this flight," Kirkland said, while being questioned by defense lawyer Mona Duckett.

The witness cross-examination taking place this week is part of Meng's U.S. extradition case. Duckett questioned Kirkland's explanation that part of the reason why the CBSA intercepted Meng before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested her was because of concerns that she represented a national security risk.

"Nothing in this examination shed any light on any national security," Duckett said, referring to the nearly three-hour period where the CBSA investigated Meng before her arrest. "There was not an iota of evidence to support a national security concern." "That is correct," Kirkland said.

Meng, 48, was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 while on a layover bound for Mexico. The United States charged her with bank fraud, accusing her of misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's business dealings in Iran and causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions. She has said she is innocent and is fighting the charges from Vancouver, where she is under house arrest in her home in Shaughnessy, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Canada.

Meng's lawyers have argued that abuses of process occurred in the nearly three hours between when she was intercepted by CBSA officers and her arrest by the RCMP, during which she had no legal representation. The officer who arrested her, RCMP Constable Winston Yep, was the first witness to start the weeklong testimony. Yep insisted the RCMP stayed in their lane and did not direct the CBSA in its investigation of Meng.

Prosecutors for the Canadian government have tried to prove that Meng's arrest was by the book, and any lapses in due process should not impact the validity of her extradition. Meng's arrest caused diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing to become rocky. Soon after her detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges.

The witness testimony is focusing on the second of three branches of abuses of process that Meng's lawyers claim took place, specifically during her arrest. Meng's extradition hearings are scheduled to wrap up in April 2021, although the potential for appeals mean the case could drag on for years.


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