VANCOUVER—Meng Wanzhou could learn the date of her looming extradition hearing when the case returns to court on Wednesday — but the executive’s defence team could first argue the legality of her arrest, say lawyers familiar with extradition law.
Meng is currently facing wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy charges in the U.S. over Huawei’s dealings with financial institutions and alleged attempts to circumvent American sanctions against Iran. Meng, the telecom company’s chief financial officer, has denied all allegations of wrongdoing through her lawyers.
On March 1, Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti issued an “authorization to proceed” in Meng’s extradition. This means the B.C. Supreme Court has now been asked to decide whether the U.S. has obtained enough evidence for Meng to stand trial in the States.
David Martin, lawyer for Meng, had earlier stated that after authority to proceed is granted, the defence team would receive a “record of the case”: documents outlining evidence likely to be presented should the case reach trial in U.S. court.
What would normally happen next, said Seth Weinstein, a Toronto criminal defence lawyer, is the immediate scheduling of an extradition hearing to take place in the coming months — or additional arguments about evidence, if Meng’s defence team is unsatisfied with what’s being disclosed by the government.
“Right now the record of the case would be in the hands of the Crown and her defence team,” Weinstein said. “Based on a review of (the record of the case) … her counsel may say that it’s deficient in certain respects, they may request further information, they may request further evidence they argue ought to be disclosed before any committal hearing or extradition hearing is held.”
Joseph Saulnier, a criminal defence lawyer in Vancouver, said the case has already been highly unusual in the amount of evidence already presented by the attorney general of Canada. Typically, the first appearance after an authorization to proceed is a quick one, he said, meant for scheduling purposes.
But he said the matter may have been complicated by Meng filing a civil suit against law enforcement and the government, alleging border officials and RCMP officers breached her Charter rights during her Dec. 1 arrest at Vancouver’s airport.
Saulnier said the civil suit is likely an attempt to influence what evidence could be used at Meng’s extradition hearing.
“I don’t think anyone has ever seen anything quite like this case,” Saulnier said. “They’re seeking a declaration that there’s a Charter breach, and if they get that declaration, that would likely go first, before the extradition hearing. If they get the declaration that could perhaps try to limit evidence at the extradition hearing.”
Julianna Greenspan, a criminal defence lawyer who has practised in both Canada and the U.S., agrees that Meng’s Charter argument could be a key point in her case. Meng has alleged in her civil suit that when initially detained by border officers on Dec. 1, she was denied a lawyer and was not told why she was being held. The allegations have not been tested in court.
“It may be that counsel for her will be making an application for abuse of process, and what that means is making a request to stay the extradition hearing, actually just stop the extradition hearing from continuing,” Greenspan said.
“They may be launching a civil suit as one aspect, but I would expect that to be argued in the context of the extradition hearing itself … A judge has authority to stay an extradition request at the committal phase, if they find the government acted abusively pursuant to the law or the constitutional rights of the individual were infringed, and decide to either exclude the evidence or make other determinations.”
While an extradition hearing is likely months or more than a year away, if the courts commit Meng for extradition to the U.S., the final decision on whether to hand her over will rest with Minister of Justice Lametti.
Michael Mui is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @mui24hours