VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is set to return to a Vancouver court on Tuesday, where her lawyers will build on their arguments against the U.S. extradition request that they say is based on a sanctions violation and not bank fraud.
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Meng, 47, arrived in a Vancouver courtroom on Monday for the first phase of a hearing that will last at least four days, during which her legal team argued that “double criminality” was at the heart of the case, as China repeated its call for Canada to release her.
The United States has charged Meng with bank fraud and accused her of misleading HSBC Holdings Plc about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business in Iran.
Court proceedings show the United States issued the arrest warrant, which Canada acted on in December 2018, because it believes Meng covered up attempts by Huawei-linked companies to sell equipment to Iran, breaking U.S. sanctions against the country.
On Tuesday, the defense is expected to answer British Columbia Supreme Court judge Heather J. Holmes’s question whether Meng’s alleged bank fraud against HSBC could be construed as a fraud if it had happened in Canada.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, remains free on bail in Canada and has been living in a mansion in Vancouver’s exclusive Shaughnessy neighborhood.
She has said she is innocent and is fighting extradition in part because her alleged conduct was not illegal in Canada, an argument commonly called “double criminality.”
Unlike the United States, Canada did not have sanctions against Iran at the time Canadian officials authorized the start of the extradition process, her lawyers have said.
On Monday, defense lawyer Richard Peck told the court that in a typical case, double criminality is not contentious. “This case, however, is founded on an allegation of breach of U.S. sanctions, sanctions which Canada has expressly repudiated,” he said.
Peck said the United States cast this matter as a case of fraud against a bank, which he described as “an artifice.”
“In reality, sanctions violation is the essence of the alleged misconduct ... the United States has a global interest in enforcing its Iran sanctions. Sanctions drive this case,” Peck added.
Meng’s legal team is currently only scheduled to call evidence in the last week of April, and a second phase of the extradition hearing, focusing on abuse of process and whether Canadian officials followed the law while arresting Meng, is set to begin in June. Closing arguments are expected in the last week of September and first week of October.
Legal experts have said it could be years before a final decision is reached in the case since Canada’s justice system allows many decisions to be appealed.
The case has had a chilling effect on relations between Ottawa and Beijing. China has called Meng’s arrest politically motivated.
U.S. President Donald Trump told Reuters in December 2018 he would intervene in Meng’s case if it served U.S. national security interests or helped close a trade deal with China. Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister at the time, quickly warned Washington not to politicize extradition cases.