Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is slated to make a court appearance in Vancouver on Wednesday morning as her lawyers gather to update a judge on the progress of her much-anticipated extradition hearing.
The defendant’s presence is not required at the proceedings but she has attended all other dates at the downtown B.C. Supreme Court building thus far, escorted by her around-the-clock security detail.
Nearly two months have passed since the last time Meng made a public appearance.
The intervening time has seen Canada face increased economic and diplomatic pressure from China over the decision to arrest the 47-year-old executive at Vancouver’s airport last December at the behest of the United States, where prosecutors want her to stand trial for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran.
Wednesday’s court appearance is expected to be brief as lawyers for both the defence and the Crown look to work out a roadmap to an actual hearing.
Her lawyers may also provide the court with an update on the issues they have been pursuing in preparation for the case, including attempts to get information from the Canada Border Services Agency about Meng’s arrest and the decision to confiscate her electronic devices in the hours after her detention.
The last time Meng came before a judge, defence lawyer Richard Peck cited concerns about the “political character” of the case, noting comments from U.S. President Donald Trump suggesting he might intervene in the case if it would help secure a trade deal with China.
Peck also said the defence was likely to make applications claiming an abuse of process in the way the CBSA and the RCMP co-operated to detain and then arrest Meng.
Meng has sued both agencies in civil court, alleging that her rights were violated because she was held for at least three hours at the airport without being told why, while authorities examined her phone and computer.
Neither the CBSA nor the RCMP have filed a response to the initial statement of claim.
Under house arrest
CBSA officers detained Meng as she stepped off a flight from Hong Kong on Dec. 1, 2018. She was on her way to Mexico City and Argentina, where she was scheduled to attend a conference.
She was released on $10 million bail secured through guarantees from a collection of people including former co-workers, a yoga teacher and a real estate agent.
Meng now lives under house arrest in one of two multi-million homes she and her husband own on Vancouver’s west side. She wears an ankle bracelet which tracks her movements within a tight geographical boundary established as part of her release.
In the months after her arrest, the U.S. unsealed an indictment charging Meng and Huawei with 13 criminal counts of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction. The charges relate to an alleged scheme to circumvent sanctions against Iran through a shadow company in Tehran that prosecutors say was actually controlled by Huawei.
Meng is accused of lying to banks after the alleged relationship was revealed in stories by Reuters.
In recent court proceedings in the Eastern District of New York, prosecutors announced their intention to use evidence captured through electronic surveillance, conducted pursuant to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The prosecution in New York is also seeking to disqualify Huawei’s lead U.S. defence lawyer, James Cole, who is a former U.S. deputy attorney general. The reasons are contained in a sealed motion.
Huawei and Meng have denied all the allegations against them.
Pressure on industry, citizens
Meng’s arrest has had repercussions far beyond courtrooms in Vancouver and New York.
Canada has accused China of trying to exert economic pressure by blocking canola seed from two of Canada’s biggest exporters, saying their shipments were contaminated with pests.
In recent weeks, traders have said Canadian soybeans and peas also appear to have been subject to unusual obstacles, and Ottawa has warned that China is holding up Canadian pork over paperwork issues.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in China shortly after Meng’s detention. Kovrig is an analyst and former diplomat and Spavor is an entrepreneur who specializes in arranging trips to North Korea. China has accused both men of spying.
Two other Canadians, Robert Schellenberg and Fan Wei, have been sentenced to death in China for their roles in alleged drug trafficking schemes. China has denied that the men were singled out for harsh treatment, but Canadian politicians see a pattern that all relates back to Meng.
The trade dispute between the United States and China that forms a backdrop to the extradition proceedings shows few signs of abating.
The U.S. has accused China of backtracking on substantial commitments made as part of those negotiations and Trump has imposed additional tariffs on Chinese goods slated to go into effect Friday.