New York (CNN Business)The extradition case of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou will continue following a crucial ruling from Canadian judge Heather Holmes Wednesday.
US prosecutors want Meng to stand trial on multiple charges, including bank fraud and violating US sanctions against Iran. The decision to continue the case could have huge political implications for Canada, the United States and China.
Following a four-day hearing in Vancouver’s Supreme Court in January, Holmes ruled Wednesday that the US allegations meet the key Canadian extradition standard of “double criminality,” which examines whether the conduct alleged by the country requesting the extradition could be considered a crime under Canadian law. The double criminality standard is a preliminary step in the extradition case; now that the judge determined it has been met, Meng’s case can proceed.
The ruling does not determine Meng’s guilt or innocence, only whether her actions would be considered a crime under Canadian law. Meng and Huawei have denied the US allegations.
Meng has also claimed that she was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated by Canadian border officials during her arrest, allegations her lawyers say invalidate the extradition case against her. Those claims will be taken up for consideration by the court in upcoming hearings this summer as the extradition case proceeds.
Later hearings will also consider whether there is sufficient evidence that the alleged conduct amounts to a fraud charge for Meng to be committed for extradition.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at the request of the United States in December 2018 at the Vancouver airport, where she had to surrender her passports and agree to live in one of two homes she owns in the city.
US authorities want Meng to be extradited to New York to face federal charges related to allegations that she lied to bank HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom, in order to receive funding that violated US economic sanctions against Iran. In February, the US government added racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets charges to the indictment. Huawei also denied the new allegations.
The case is one in a series of actions the US officials have taken against the Chinese tech giant in recent years.
During the January hearing, lawyers for Meng argued that what she’s accused of does not break Canadian law, because the US allegations hinge on sanctions against Iran that do not exist in Canada. But prosecutors from Canada’s Attorney General’s office argued that the allegations, which include lying to a bank with the potential for causing loss, would amount to a Canadian fraud charge, and that Meng should therefore be committed for extradition.
“Lying to a bank in order to get financial services that creates a risk of economic prejudice is fraud,” Robert Frater, a lawyer for the attorney general, said during the January hearing, adding that the actions put HSBC at risk of US penalties for sanctions violations and reputational damage.
The judge’s Wednesday ruling came to a similar conclusion. Holmes wrote in the ruling that Meng’s argument that double criminality was not met because of the application of US sanctions “would give fraud an artificially narrow scope in the extradition context.”
Holmes added: “The double criminality requirement for extradition is capable of being met in this case. The effects of the US sanctions may properly play a role in the double criminality analysis as part of the background or context against which the alleged conduct is examined.”