VANCOUVER – Court documents released ahead of a Huawei executive’s extradition trial suggest a Canadian border official questioned Meng Wanzhou about her business before RCMP arrested her.
The nearly 1,100 pages of material released Tuesday were collected by Meng’s defence team, which plans to argue that her arrest at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1 was unlawful.
The United States is seeking her extradition to face allegations of fraud in violating Iran sanctions, but both Meng and Huawei have denied any wrongdoing.
The documents include a statement from Acting Supt. Sanjit Dhillon of the Canada Border Services Agency, who says that Meng repeatedly asked why she was selected for secondary inspection after she got off her plane at the airport.
Dhillon says in his statement that he asked Meng what she did for work, whether her company sold products to the United States and whether it sold products in countries that it should not.
He says Meng appeared confused by the question and he rephrased it, asking if the company sold products or did business in Iran, to which he says Meng initially replied, “I don’t know,” before saying the company has an office in Iran.
“I reminded the subject that she is the CFO of a multibillion-dollar company, and that it would be hard for me to believe that she wouldn’t know these details about her company,” Dhillon’s declaration says. “The subject stated that her company does have an office in Iran.”
Handwritten notes by an RCMP officer say authorities explained the warrant to provisional arrest and the charter rights to Meng after border officials concluded their inspection.
The U.S. Department of Justice has laid charges of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction against Huawei and Meng, who is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.
Meng’s extradition trial is to begin Jan. 20, more than a year after she was taken into custody.
She has been free on bail and is living in one of her multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver while wearing an electronic tracking device and being monitored by a security company.
The defence documents were released alongside hours of airport surveillance footage after a senior B.C. Supreme Court judge agreed to what she called a “somewhat unusual” request to provide them directly to media ahead of Meng’s extradition hearing.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes told a brief hearing she agrees with both the defence and Crown that the interests of justice are best served by transparency in the high-profile case.
“It is somewhat unusual to provide the media copies of court material the instant they are filed, even though it will be weeks before the other party responds and the hearing takes place,” Holmes said.
“However, as counsel have noted, this case has attracted a very high degree of public interest and I agree with counsels’ assessment … that the interests of justice are best served by transparency in this instance,” she said.
The materials are exhibits Meng’s defence team plans to use as evidence in its request for access to further documentation during an eight-day disclosure hearing that is to begin Sept. 23.
The defence team has previously said they want access to audio and are requesting other material through freedom of information legislation.
The court’s approval also follows a request from Holmes in March that the defence and Crown work together to find ways to lessen the burden that media attention has put on staff in the court registry.
Typically, media would apply through the registry for access to materials once they are registered as exhibits.
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