VANCOUVER: A Canadian border official involved with the interrogation of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou ahead of her 2018 arrest told a court on Thursday she was a flight risk and had the resources to escape the country without reporting to authorities.
Prosecutors are trying to establish that Meng’s arrest and investigation were above board, while Meng’s lawyers are trying to prove that Canadian and U.S. authorities illegally directed the Canada border agency’s examination of Meng in order to use the agency’s additional investigative powers to gather information from Meng without a lawyer present.
Canada Border Services Agency’s (CBSA) officers have testified that they had reason to detain and investigate Meng regardless of the pending arrest warrant.
CBSA superintendent Sowmith Katragadda listed all the countries Meng had visited based on the stamps in her passport Thursday, including Mexico, Senegal, Colombia, Brunei, and the United Arab Emirates. He told the court visiting some of these “source countries” was a “national security concern,” and constituted grounds to search Meng’s devices.
She “has the resources to depart Canada and not report for an examination,” Katragadda said. “Ms. Meng is a senior executive for one of the biggest companies in the world. And Canada is a very big country with a lot of small airports.”
Meng, 48, is accused of misrepresenting Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] dealings with Iran, putting one of its lenders HSBC at risk of violating U.S. trade sanctions.
She has denied the charges and mounted a defence, asking that her extradition be thrown out because of alleged collusion between Canadian and U.S. authorities among other reasons.
Meng’s arrest has set off a diplomatic conflict between Ottawa and Beijing. Soon after her detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges. The two men remain in detention.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had no regrets about Meng’s arrest regardless of foreign policy implications.
“Do I regret Canada followed its laws? Do I regret that Canada lived up to a longstanding extradition treaty with our closest ally? Absolutely not,” Trudeau said, speaking at a virtual event taking place alongside the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation annual meeting on Thursday. “Canada is a country of the rule of law and obeying those laws. It can’t just be when it’s convenient or when it’s easy.”
Hearings in the British Columbia Supreme Court this week and next week consist of witness testimony from CBSA and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officials, regarding their conduct during Meng’s investigation and arrest.
Recent testimony has reviewed and scrutinized minute-to-minute developments at the airport on the day of Meng’s arrest, as her lawyers seek to prove abuses of process that invalidate her extradition.
Another RCMP official, who is now retired and is alleged by Meng’s lawyers to have illegally passed identifying details about her electronic devices to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, declined to testify.
Court documents show that prosecutors initially declined to release notes relating to his affidavit due to “witness safety” concerns.