FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier
December 8, 2020
By Sarah Berman
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A Canadian police officer acting as the airport liaison when Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested two years ago testified on Tuesday that he should have investigated further when he thought he overheard a fellow police officer and a border agent discussing the passcodes to Meng’s devices.
Meng’s lawyers have argued that U.S. and Canadian authorities illegally coordinated during her investigation and arrest. In particular they claim that Canadian border agents intentionally gave identifying details about Meng’s electronic devices – including passcodes – to Canadian police.
They further allege that Canadian police shared those details with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Meng, 48, was arrested in Canada in December 2018 on a warrant from the United States. She is facing charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC Holdings Plc about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
She has said she is innocent and is fighting the extradition from under house arrest in Vancouver.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Sergeant Ross Lundie, who was serving as the force’s airport liaison when Meng was arrested, told the court on Tuesday that he recalled overhearing one of his RCMP colleagues discussing passcodes, potentially to Meng’s devices, with a Canadian border agent.
But he said he did not realize the potential significance of the conversation on the day of Meng’s arrest.
“At that time I had no idea why there would be passwords to phones…obtained by anybody,” he said. “I should have asked for clarity.”
Prosecutors are trying to establish that Meng’s arrest by the Canadian federal police and the investigation by the border officials were aboveboard.
The witness testimony this week has generated more attention after news last week that U.S. prosecutors are discussing a deal with lawyers for Meng to resolve criminal charges against her, signaling a potential end to a case that has strained ties between the United States, China and Canada.
Her lawyers have argued in the British Columbia Supreme Court that Meng’s extradition should be thrown out based on alleged abuses of process that took place during her investigation by Canadian border officials and subsequent arrest by police, including inappropriate coordination between U.S. and Canadian authorities.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Sergeant Ross Lundie testified on Monday that he was “very uncomfortable” being the point of contact for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation because he felt it conflicted with his responsibilities as a Canadian police officer.
“At the end of the day, I’m not there to provide information and act on behalf of the FBI. I’m there working as an RCMP member,” Lundie told the court.
Prosecutors are arguing that Meng’s extradition is valid and procedures were followed.
Meng’s arrest caused a chill in diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing. Shortly after Meng was detained, China arrested two Canadian men, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who now face spying charges.
On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the release of the two Canadians was his “top priority,” while declining to comment on the talks to release Meng.
Meng’s case is scheduled to wrap up in April 2021.
(Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)