VANCOUVER—The bail hearing for a top executive of one of China’s star telecommunications companies continues Monday morning at the B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver.
Huawei Telecommunications CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested while transferring planes in Vancouver on Dec. 1. The arrest, carried out at the request of authorities in the United States, has infuriated the Chinese government and worsened pre-existing tensions between the two global heavyweights.
Meng arrived in the Vancouver courtroom shortly after 10 a.m. Her husband, Liu Xiaozong, sat in the audience, flanked by members of his entourage. The hearing is expected to focus on proposed bail conditions for Meng, should she be released pending her extradition hearing.
Meng’s lawyer, David Martin, said he will introduce two expert witnesses to weigh in on surveillance and electronic monitoring measures as part of a bail package. Martin said his client will foot the bill for any such services.
First to take the stand was Scot Filer, CEO of Lions Gate Risk Management Group and an RCMP veteran with three decades of experience. Filer represents one of the two security firms proposed by Martin to undertake Meng’s surveillance as part of her bail conditions.
The majority of the Lions Gate personnel are ex-military and ex-police, according to Filer, and the company has a team of 12 full-time staff for “executive protection services,” although they are not currently offering round-the-clock coverage, he said.
Filer suggested Meng reside at her W. 28th Avenue home in Vancouver during her bail period — an address associated with a Sunday break and enter which prompted a response from the Vancouver Police Department. There is “no impediment” there to stop his team from doing an effective job, Filer said.
The Crown asked what would happen if Meng wanted to go somewhere the security team doesn’t go.
“If there was a higher risk of potential breach of condition that they weren’t satisfied they could manage, they would refuse her attending that event,” Filer replied.
“Our responsibility would be to enforce the conditions of release imposed by the court,” Filer told the judge, adding he and his staff are prepared conduct a citizen’s arrest if necessary.
After a description of proposed travel restrictions for Meng and the security detail which would be assigned to her oversight — Lions Gate COO Doug Maynard heading up the team with rotating pairs of security guards on eight-hour shifts, 24-hours per day — the Crown asked Filer whether his company had ever been involved in monitoring a person on bail before.
“No,” he replied.
During day one of her bail hearing on Friday, a warrant from authorities in New York revealed allegations that Meng knowingly violated U.S. trade sanctions against Iran, and misled financial institutions. A warrant from the Eastern District of New York alleges Meng knew Huawei was operating a company called SkyCom to do business with Iran, which has been subject to U.S. sanctions since 1979.
The U.S. authorities allege Meng committed fraud by telling an HSBC executive her company was in compliance with U.S. sanctions against Iran limiting communication technology. U.S. authorities further argue Meng broke the law when she told the banker that Huawei and SkyCom, another telecommunications company, were separate entities.
“The allegation is SkyCom is Huawei,” said Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley on Friday.
Meng’s lawyer David Martin countered, saying Huawei once owned shares in SkyCom and Meng sat on the company’s board, but the shares in the company were sold after 2009 and SkyCom became an independent contractor to Huawei.
The Crown argued Friday that Meng’s vast wealth means no surety or bail amount would deter her from fleeing to China should bail be granted. Meng’s defence argued her familial and economic ties to the city — as well as the reputation of her family — means she poses no flight risk.
Meng’s arrest sparked outrage from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who called her detention “unreasonable, unconscionable, and vile in nature” and warned of “grave consequences” if she is not released.
The arrest has put Canada at the centre of what one former U.S. federal prosecutor called a “powerful cross-currents” of global jostling for influence.
And while Canada is obliged to observe its long-standing extradition treaty with the U.S., it has also been looking elsewhere — including to China — to establish new trade relationships in the wake of a rocky period of dispute with its largest trading partner.
This puts Meng’s arrest in Vancouver at the heart of international tensions simmering between a number of foreign powers all seeking to reorient themselves to a shifting global power structure where China is ascendant.
Meanwhile, Huawei is the largest global supplier of hardware and infrastructure for both personal mobile users and network providers. The company’s ability to underbid the competition has made them an attractive partner for governments looking to develop 5G networks — a technological initiative widely seen as the future of connectivity.
But the telecommunications giant has also been the subject of suspicion over the possibility its technology may offer a “back door” to surveillance by the Chinese government — a claim Huawei has categorically denied.
The United States, Australia and New Zealand have banned the company from participating in the construction of 5G networks because of security concerns, and Washington has been increasing pressure on Canada and Britain — the other two members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance — to follow suit.
Huawei is currently in partnership with leading Canadian universities across the country as well as companies such as Telus, with whom it is developing interconnected 5G networks in Canada.
Some experts say Canada could suffer retaliation or the cooling of relations with Beijing.
Follow investigative reporter Michael Mui (@mui24hours) below for live coverage of day two of the bail hearing.
With files from Melanie Green
Michael Mui is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @mui24hours
Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver-based reporter covering community issues and Canada’s drug policies. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer
Joanna Chiu is assistant managing editor of StarMetro Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachi