Canadian border officer testifies at extradition hearing of Huawei exec

Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves British Columbia Supreme Court with her security team, in Vancouver Canada, on November 17, 2020

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou faced the second day of a new round of extradition hearings Tuesday in Vancouver, during which a Canadian border officer who participated in her 2018 interrogation said she was not forced to hand over the passwords to her electronic devices.

Meng, chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant, has been fighting extradition to the United States, where she faces fraud and conspiracy charges related to alleged violations by Huawei of US sanctions on Iran.

Her December 2018 Vancouver arrest plunged Canada-China relations into crisis.

Days later, two Canadians were detained in China, accused by Beijing of espionage in what Ottawa has insisted was a retaliatory move, but which Beijing says was unrelated, while insisting Meng has violated no laws.

Meng's lawyers contend that Canada violated her rights when she was detained, searched and interrogated for hours.

The daughter of Huawei's founder was questioned without a lawyer present and without knowing why, and had to give the passwords to her electronic devices to customs officers, who gave them to the federal police.

The passwords were then sent to the FBI. Meng's lawyer has accused Canadian federal police of colluding with the US intelligence agency.

On Tuesday, the court heard from Sanjit Dhillon, a Canadian customs official present at the time of Meng's arrest, who denied that Meng had been forced to hand over the passwords for her two phones and laptop.

"I don't recall that would be an offense if somebody has refused to provide their pass code," Dhillon said.

According to him, Meng was not legally "detained" by border officers in December 2018. They were simply "examining her," which does not provide the right to a lawyer or consular access.

Dhillon also denied that he acted on instructions from the FBI. He said he was copied on an email from the US agency asking Canadian authorities to gather information on Meng, but he could not recall the precise content of the request.

When asked by the prosecutor if he took any action as a result of the email, Dhillon replied: "No, I did not."

On Monday, Meng's lawyer said that a key witness -- since-retired officer Ben Chang, who other officers have indicated passed Meng's digital info to the FBI -- has refused to testify.

"There may be a number of consequences from his refusal to testify," Peck said in court, adding that Chang's absence was concerning.

Chang has denied he shared the data with the FBI, and the email in question was permanently deleted upon his retirement.