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'Fraud is a facade': Meng Wanzhou's lawyers argue against extradition

Last Updated Jan 21, 2020 at 6:06 am PDT

Meng Wanzhou chief financial officer of Huawei leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, January 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou's extradition hearing has begun in Vancouver

Meng's lawyers are arguing the charges she's facing in the U.S. aren't crimes in Canada

Interest in the case is quite high, as gaggles of people waving signs showed up at the courthouse and Meng's home

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Large crowds of people gathered outside the B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver on Monday as the first day of Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing began.

Local and international media crews waited as Meng arrived, camera lights flashing off her face as she waved to the crowd. Meanwhile, a lineup to get into the court house wrapped around the building, as it once did before, when Meng first made a court appearance months ago.

Activists holding signs outside demanding Meng be freed and Canadians detained in China be brought home declined interviews and would not identify who they are affiliated with.

At issue at this week’s hearing is whether Meng’s case meets the legal test of double criminality, meaning it will look at whether her actions were criminal in both Canada and the U.S., the country requesting her extradition.

In a small victory to kick off proceedings on Monday, Meng was allowed to leave the prisoner’s dock with a translator to sit at a table where she had better access to documents.

“Canada is a sovereign nation,” Meng’s lawyer Richard Peck argued, adding “fraud is a facade.”

Peck told a British Columbia Supreme Court judge that it’s a fiction that America has any interest in policing a foreign citizen or foreign bank, but it does have an interest in enforcing its sanctions.

He added sanctions are the basis of the alleged fraud, since the bank wouldn’t have faced any economic risk if the penalties didn’t exist. He noted Canada has refused to impose similar sanctions against Iran.

Lawyers for the attorney general, however, have argued in court documents that Meng’s alleged misrepresentations put HSBC at risk of economic loss, and that they are enough to make a case of fraud on this side of the border.

In a pre-recorded statement, Huawei spokesperson Benjamin Howes said the company would not provide specific comments on the ongoing legal proceeding, adding it would be inappropriate to do so.

“We trust in Canada’s judicial system, which will prove Miss Meng’s innocence,” he said. “Huawei stands with Miss Meng in her pursuit of justice and freedom. We hope Miss Meng will be together with her family and colleagues and friends as soon as possible.”

Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December, 2018, at the request of the Americans on fraud charges. She has denied the allegations and has been out on bail while living in one of her multi-million dollar homes in Vancouver.

Her arrest has fractured relations between Ottawa and Beijing. In an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng, Beijing detained two Canadians — ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor — shortly after her arrest.

No decision is expected on Monday.

-With files from Travis Prasad