Huawei CFO's extradition would let US criminalize behavior in Canada, say lawyers

Guardian staff and agencies in Vancouver
Photograph: Darryl Dyck/AP

Lawyers for a Chinese telecoms executive arrested in Vancouver have argued that her extradition to the US would allow a foreign state to criminalize behavior in Canada.

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei and eldest daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei, is wanted by US authorities for alleged fraud related to sanctions against Iran.

In the second day of a five-day extradition hearing in Vancouver, lawyers for Meng argued that the US accusations against her would not be considered a crime in Canada, where she was arrested in 2018.

Related: US case against Huawei's Meng Wanzhou is 'fiction', say lawyers

“Canada doesn’t enforce foreign criminal law,” said Meng’s lawyer Eric Gottardi. “We simply cannot import that law and have it operate in Canada domestically. It’s contrary to our values.”

The US alleges Meng lied to the bank HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Tehran.

On Monday, defense attorneys argued that the US was abusing its treaty with Canada by asking it to detain Meng for prosecution as part of a campaign that Ren, Huawei’s chief executive, surmised aimed to crush China’s largest international company.

They argued that Meng’s misrepresentations, if they occurred, did not amount to fraud, and that Canada had repudiated the US sanctions against Iran.

“Would we be here in the absence of US sanctions? Our response is no,” Richard Peck, the lead defense lawyer, told a packed courtroom.

The hearing is scheduled to last until Friday.

Meng’s arrest during a stopover of a Hong Kong-to-Mexico flight in December 2018 placed her at the center of a US-China trade row, with Donald Trump once musing that he would gladly trade her release for Chinese trade concessions.

It also put Canada in the middle of the feud between the US and China, with which Justin Trudeau had hoped to nurture closer economic ties.

Nine days after Meng was taken into custody at the Vancouver airport, China arrested two Canadians – the former diplomat Michael Kovrig and the businessman Michael Spavor.

Their detentions on espionage suspicions, along with Chinese restrictions on Canadian agricultural imports, have been widely interpreted as retribution by Beijing aimed at pressuring Canada to free Meng.

Former Canadian political leaders have urged the prime minister to concede and release Meng in a “prisoner swap” for Kovrig and Spavor.

But extradition experts consulted by AFP said that that would encourage “hostage diplomacy”.

China’s foreign ministry on Monday characterized Meng’s extradition case as a “grave political incident”, while renewing calls for Ottawa to release her to normalize relations.

Canada’s deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, responded that Ottawa “honors its extradition treaty commitments” and would not interfere in the case while it was before the courts.

In a statement, Huawei said that it trusted Canada’s judicial system and believed Meng would be found innocent.