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Canada to start extradition process of Huawei CFO
Canada has formally started the extradition process against Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, about three months after her arrest in Vancouver.
The Department of Justice said in a statement that the decision followed a "thorough and diligent review" of the evidence in the case. The department was satisfied that requirements had been met.
There is "sufficient evidence" to have the case put before an extradition judge, the statement said.
The authority to proceed is the first step and largely a formality. It allows a judge to hear the case. Justice Minister David Lametti will then decide whether Meng will be extradited.
A Vancouver lawyer who specializes in extraditions said it is clear Lametti did not consult with the rest of cabinet.
“This is one case that cries out to have that kind of consultation and that would avoid so much trouble,” Gary Botting said.
“We’re talking about two years now of fooling around in the extradition process, whichever way it goes.”
In a statement, Lametti said he would not comment on the case as it is now before the courts.
Under the Extradition Act, the government must review alleged conduct and determine whether a conviction would result in a jail sentence of at least one year, had it happened in Canada. The allegations must also be considered to have "dual criminality" - meaning the actions are considered criminal in both the U.S. and Canada.
Political scientist Lynette Ong said this latest decision will possibly hurt already icy relations with China.
“I think this doesn’t work well for our bilateral relations with China,” Ong said.
Shortly after Meng’s arrest, two Canadians were detained in China on suspicion they’re “endangering national security.”
Michael Kovrig is a diplomat on hiatus working for an international think tank and Michael Spavor is an entrepeurneur and business consultant dealing with North Korea.
“It is very difficult to predict what will actually come through for the detainees, but overall, the prospect does not look very good,” she said.
Former Abbotsford resident Robert Schellenberg is now on death row.
Schellenberg was previously sentenced to 15 years in prison for being an accessory to drug smuggling but his sentence was suddenly changed by a Chinese court following a one-day retrial.
“My prediction is that he is likely to be sentenced to death because I think in all likelihood, China is going to retaliate against Canada’s actions,” Ong said.
An appearance has been scheduled at the B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday morning to confirm the authority to proceed has been issued, and to set a date for the hearing itself.
An extradition hearing does not determine guilt or innocence, but during the hearing, the Crown will make detailed arguments and file evidence which will become part of the public record. If Meng is extradited, she will have a trial south of the border.
In a statement emailed to CTVNewsVancouver.ca, Meng's legal team called the department's decision disappointing. Meng maintains that she is innocent of any wrongdoing, and her lawyers say they do not feel the circumstances qualify as dual criminality.
Her defence team reiterated the view that the charges are political, citing a statement from U.S. President Donald Trump that he'd consider intervening if it would help a trade deal with China.
Trump's comments fueled theories about Canada's true intent, but the federal affairs minister said previously that Meng's arrest was without political interference.
"Ms. Meng was arrested pursuant to Canada's extradition treaty with the United States… There was no political involvement," Chrystia Freeland said in December, touting rule of law and the impartiality of Canada's courts.
Meng was taken into custody at the Vancouver International Airport in early December following a request from the U.S. government. The chief financial officer is alleged to have circumvented U.S.-based sanctions on Iran while using a subsidiary called Skycom.
Charges against Chinese tech giant Huawei, Meng and two subsidiaries were announced in January, and include bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to obstruct justice and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
"The criminal activity alleged in this indictment goes back 10 years and goes all the way back to the top of the company," Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said earlier this year.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
A separate case filed in Washington state accused Huawei of trying to steal technology and trade secrets from U.S.-based telecommunications company T-Mobile.
The company pleaded not guilty to the trade secrets charges in Seattle Thursday.
Meng has been out on bail in Vancouver since Dec. 11, released on several conditions including a promise to appear in court, should the extradition hearing go forward.
She will remain on bail, subject to the same conditions, until the proceedings are over.
The Chinese government has demanded her release, and has been critical of Canada for acting on the U.S. request.
Her arrest led to international tensions between Canada and China. Several Canadians have been detained overseas, and a B.C. man convicted of drug charges saw his prison sentence changed to death during a one-day retrial.
With files from The Canadian Press