Prosecutor: Burden on Huawei lawyer to prove info shared

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — There is no evidence proving a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer shared with the FBI information taken from the electronic devices of a senior executive for Chinese communications giant Huawei Technologies, a Canadian justice department lawyer told an extradition hearing Thursday.

Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer who is also the daughter of the company’s founder, at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of the U.S., which wants her extradited to face fraud charges. The arrest infuriated Beijing, which sees her case as a political move designed to prevent China’s rise.

The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company called Skycom to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the company’s business dealings in Iran.

Meng’s lawyers claim her extraction should be halted because Canadian Border Security Agency officers detained and questioned her without a lawyer, asked questions that benefited U.S. authorities, seized her electronic devices, and put them in special bags to prevent wiping, and compelled her to give up the passcodes before her official arrest.

Canadian justice department lawyer John Gibb-Carsley said the defense has the “burden to prove” retired RCMP Staff Sgt. Ben Chang shared Meng’s information with the FBI.

“There is no evidential basis to reach such a conclusion,” he told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.

“The only reasonable inference to draw from the evidence is Chang did not share.”

The lack of evidence puts the Attorney General Department “in the position of proving something wasn’t done,” said Gibb-Carsley.

Accusing Chang of sharing evidence falls into the defense’s theory that the RCMP and border officials conducted a “covert criminal investigation” to assist the FBI, he said.

“The evidence points in a different direction" said Gibb -Carsley.

Chang has supplied a written affidavit denying he shared any information with the FBI.

Chang, who now lives in Macau, has hired a lawyer, and refuses to testify. The RCMP destroyed all Chang’s emails and text messages once he retired.

Meng’s lawyers say his refusal to testify at the hearing should bring the credibility of his affidavit into doubt.

Holmes raised the issue of Chang’s refusal to testify with Gibb-Carsley.

“He was a senior police officer and . . . generally retired police officers testify in relation to cases they were involved with before their retirement and that’s not happening here,” she said.

Gibb-Carsley pointed to earlier testimony from RCMP information technologist Jayson Allen who searched Chang’s outgoing emails.

Allen said he didn’t find any emails from Chang to the FBI on or after Dec. 4. That’s the day another RCMP officer opened and photographed the details of Meng’s devices at the request of the FBI.

Meng, wearing a pink mask and an electronic monitoring device on her ankle, followed the proceedings through a translator.

Meng’s lawyers will be back in court next week arguing that the U.S. is exceeding the limits of its jurisdiction by prosecuting a foreign citizen for actions that took place in Hong Kong and that Canada was misled by the U.S. about the strength of its case.

Soon after Meng’s arrest, China arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in apparent retaliation and charged them with spying. Both have remained in custody with limited access to visits by Canadian consular officials.

The two made closed-door court appearances over the last week. Canadian consular officials were barred from attending the proceedings and no verdicts were announced.

Meng remains free on bail in Vancouver and is living in a mansion