The closely watched case of Meng Wanzhou is due to start in Vancouver as the Huawei executive battles extradition amid growing tensions between Canada and China.
The hearings, scheduled to begin on Monday and last five days at British Columbia’s supreme court, will centre on “double criminality” – the legal notion that Meng’s extradition to the US requires her alleged actions also be considered a crime in Canada.
It marks the first phase in what is likely to be a protracted battle: Meng’s team is also expected to argue US and Canadian authorities conspired against her, breaching her rights when Canadian border guards detained her for hours prior to her arrest by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in December 2018 on suspicion of fraud and breaching US sanctions on Iran.
Government lawyers in Canada allege Meng lied about her company’s dealings with Iran when speaking to prospective investors at large banks, potentially putting them at risk of breaching the US sanctions. This deception, they say, amounts to fraud.
The defence counters that Canada does not have the same sanctions against Iran, so any banks working with Meng would not have fallen foul of restrictions.
If Justice Heather Holmes sides with the government, it increases the likelihood Meng could be sent to the US to face bank fraud and wire fraud charges. But if her lawyers are able to argue the threshold of double criminality has not been met, the extradition proceedings would in effect end.
The Huawei chief financial officer was arrested more than a year ago as she travelled from Hong Kong to a conference in Argentina, stopping briefly in Vancouver.
Hours before the start of the hearings, China condemned the proceedings, highlighting tense relations between the two countries.
“We urge the Canadian government again to take China’s stance and concerns seriously, take tangible action to correct its mistakes, release Ms Meng without further delay and ensure her safe return to China,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
Meng’s court appearance comes amid growing concern in Canada over the detention of two Canadians in China, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were charged with espionage in May. The pair were arrested days after Canada executed the warrant for Meng – a move largely seen as retributive from China. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has long demanded the two be released, but the two remain in detention.