An RCMP officer who oversaw Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest denied a proposition by her defence lawyer that Canadian police tried to keep the arrest warrant a secret from her.
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers took Meng in for questioning regarding her company’s business dealing with Iran when she was transferring at Vancouver International Airport en route to Mexico on Dec. 1, 2018. She was later detained by the RCMP on an extradition arrest warrant issued by a New York court.
Defence lawyer Scott Fenton said in an evidentiary hearing on Nov. 24 at the B.C. Supreme Court that the RCMP instructed the CBSA not to inform Meng that she was about to be arrested, so as to deprive her the right to speak to a lawyer, reported South China Morning Post.
“My proposition is that’s because the RCMP asked the CBSA … to keep it discreet, to keep it secret,” said Fenton.
“I did not do anything of that sort,” said RCMP Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal.
Dhaliwal, who served as an “exhibits officer” in the case, was in charge of seizing and documenting the exhibits taken from Meng, which include her iPad, laptop, two phones, and a memory stick.
Dhaliwal’s superior, Sergeant Janice Vander Graaf, who also testified on Nov. 24, said that the original plan was for the RCMP officers to board Meng’s plane to execute the arrest warrant.
But there was a change of plan by the time Graaf arrived at the airport, in which her supervisor had agreed to let the CBSA take Meng in for initial questioning after she got off the plane and begin an immigration admissibility examination, reported CBC News.
“This seemed like a reasonable course of action and it seemed like a safe course of action,” said Vander Graaf.
“[The CBSA] had to do what they had to do, and I didn’t have any input on what they were planning on doing or what they needed to do for their job or their responsibility. So I had really no sense of the timeline of how long they would take.”
U.S. authorities want to have Meng extradited to stand trial in an American court on charges of bank fraud. She allegedly lied about the operations of Huawei Technologies in Iran to obtain financing from HSBC, which would lead the bank to violate U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Meng’s lawyers are gathering evidence to support their argument that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation used the CBSA in a covert operation to obtain evidence from Meng.
The defence argued that this violated her rights and constituted an “abuse of process,” and the U.S. extradition request should therefore be thrown out.
In testimony earlier this week, Dhaliwal told Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley that he did not recall the FBI ever asking him or his colleagues to turn over the passcodes to Meng’s electronic devices.
A note recorded by Graaf, however, told a conflicting story in which another RCMP officer, Staff Sergeant Ben Chang, had provided the passcodes to the FBI.
Chang had refused to testify in court, which was likely due to concerns of his “witness safety,” according to notes from Canadian government prosecutors. He retired soon after Meng’s arrest in 2018 and now works in a casino in Macau, China.