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‘Nothing routine about this’: Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers claim abuse of power

Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou say there’s no truth to the suggestion they are on a “fishing” expedition in their bid for records to prove Canadian and U.S. authorities conspired to violate the rights of the Huawei executive.

Meng’s legal team shot back at Canada’s attorney general Tuesday after the release of documents in which the AG claims no amount of additional records relating to Meng’s arrest will show that her rights were violated.

“We are not on a proverbial fishing expedition in any way,” Scott Fenton, one of four top-tier litigators who are defending Meng, said in B.C. Supreme Court. 

Fenton maintained they are seeking “specific documents” which they believe will back up their assertion that American authorities wanted to use the extraordinary powers of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to investigate Meng, before she was officially arrested by the RCMP in December 2018.

“We are not relying on conjecture, guesswork and wishful speaking,” he said.

Meng was arrested on an U.S. extradition warrant after arriving at Vancouver’s airport on a flight from Hong Kong. She was on a stopover to Mexico City with a final destination of Buenos Aires.

The U.S. wants Meng extradited to face trial on charges related to allegations she misled bankers about Huawei’s relationship with a shadow company in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Before she was arrested, Meng was detained by CBSA officers for about three hours as they seized her electronic devices, searched her bags and asked her questions.

“It’s our submission that there was effectively no legitimate purpose to the CBSA’s actions,” said Fenton.

The defence believes the FBI and other American authorities were pulling the strings and are asking Justice Heather Holmes to order the disclosure of documents they say will prove their case.

Lawyers for the attorney general, on the other hand, claim CBSA agents acted within the normal parameters of their powers, treating Meng as they would any other traveller.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes listens as defence lawyer Richard Peck argues that his client’s rights were violated. (Jane Wolsak)

‘That is not routine’

In documents filed in advance of this week’s hearing, the Crown claims it has already provided defence with an unusually large amount of records relating to Meng’s arrest and none of it proves anything out of the routine.

But Richard Peck, another of Meng’s lawyers, scoffed at that idea.

“The way Ms. Meng was dealt with was anything but routine,” Peck told the judge after painstakingly taking the court through videos of her interactions with CBSA officers.

Meng Wanzhou’s lawyers claim the extraordinary powers of the CBSA were abused when she was detained at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

He pointed to the fact that as soon as CBSA officers intercepted Meng, they seized her laptop and mobile devices and placed them in bags specially designed to block out all communication.

“For what purpose? To serve as evidence for a foreign law enforcement agency,” Peck said. 

“That is not routine. There is nothing routine about this.”

‘Air of reality’ 

In order to convince Holmes to grant an order for additional disclosure, Meng’s lawyers need to convince her that their allegations have “an air of reality” that would warrant a stay of proceedings if proven.

The attorney general claims the assertions of collusion are unfounded and that there is no way they should result in the case being tossed.

Volumes of material have already been filed with the court, making the proceedings a little dry as the judge, lawyers and Meng all read along with Fenton’s arguments, thumbing through thick white, plastic binders as he speaks.

A number of Huawei executives watched from the public gallery as did reporters from across North America.

As she did on Monday, Meng appeared upbeat and smiling for the camera both as she left her house and as she arrived in court.

For the second day in a row, she wore high-heeled Jimmy Choo pumps and a designer dress, mingling with a crowd of supporters during breaks, as guards with earpieces stood, feet astride and hands clasped, at the edge of the crowd.

Where there’s smoke …

Fenton referred to a few of the cases which will serve as precedents for Holmes to decide whether to grant an order for disclosure, including a 2001 decision in which the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a judge’s decision not to extradite four men to the U.S. because of comments American prosecutors made to the CBC.

An assistant U.S. attorney told CBC’s The Fifth Estate one of the accused would “be the boyfriend of a very bad man” if he waited out his extradition hearing and wound up in jail after a trial.

The men argued that they were being threatened with rape in prison, which would have violated the charter right to life, liberty and security of the person — not to mention the right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

Meng’s lawyers plan to draw a parallel between that case and U.S. President Donald Trump’s suggestion that Meng could be used as a bargaining chip.

Fenton pointed out that the defence doesn’t have to argue the merits of the abuse of power claim in order for Holmes to rule in its favour — only to prove that there may be fire where smoke can be seen.