Extradition case: Trump's threat to intervene in Huawei case reduced Meng Wanzhou to a 'chattel,' defence says
VANCOUVER -- Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s defence team argued Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court that comments made by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 reduced Meng to a “bargaining chip” in U.S.-China trade negotiations, and have poisoned the extradition proceedings against her.
Defence lawyer Richard Peck, Q.C., argued that Trump’s comments and the context in which they were made, amount to an “abuse of process” that impacts both the integrity of the Canadian justice system, and the fairness of the proceedings.
Trump was asked in a Reuters interview in 2018 if he would intervene in the U.S. fraud case against Meng if it would help close a trade deal with China, or impact U.S. national security interests.
Trump responded he “would certainly intervene if (he) thought it was necessary.”
“With that utterance, Ms. Meng became a bargaining chip in this economic contest between two superpowers,” Peck told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes on Wednesday.
“Those words amount to the opening salvo in this trade war."
Peck went on to argue that other comments made by Trump, as well as then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “were a subjugation of the rule of law to other interests.”
"They reduce Ms. Meng from a human being to a chattel,” Peck said, as Meng looked on masked from the dock, seated next to her translator.
"It’s a notion that strikes at the heart of human dignity."
The argument is the first of four abuse of process “branches” Meng’s defence team plans to argue over the next three months in order to have the extradition proceedings against her stayed.
Meng is charged with bank and wire fraud in the U.S. for allegedly misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with a partner company named Skycom to HSBC bank, allegedly putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
In his rebuttal, Crown counsel Robert Frater argued that defence had taken Trump’s comments out of context and failed to consider the comments of other relevant actors.
“There’s not very much substance to (Trump’s 2018) comments,” Frater said. “There is nothing to them.”
Peck also pointed to comments made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in December 2019 that the U.S. should not sign a final trade agreement with China “that does not settle the issue of Meng Wanzhou and the two Canadians.”
"The fact that (Trudeau) said it is problematic,” Peck said, adding “(it’s an) erosion of the rule of law.”
But Frater argued that the defence was merely “shifting the blame” to the PM because they lost their “ace card” when Trump was voted out of office.
Trudeau has “always tried to draw a distinction between the (Meng Wanzhou) case and any other political considerations,” Frater told the judge.
In an effort to head off the Attorney General’s arguments that because Trump is no longer President, the defence’s argument is “moot,” Peck pointed to the fact that U.S. President Joe Biden has not, to date, repudiated Trump’s comments.
"The damage was done the day the words were uttered,” defence lawyer Isabel Schurman said.
In fact, Peck added, the White House has doubled down by continuing to call Huawei technology a “national security threat.”
“The U.S. sees Huawei … as presenting an existential threat to its prominence on the world stage,” Peck said, adding he wasn’t casting judgment on U.S. policy, but merely providing the “context” to Meng’s case.
Peck also pointed out that trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing are far from finalized.
The Crown will resume its rebuttal arguments on Thursday.
Later this month, Meng’s lawyers plan to argue that Meng’s Charter rights were violated when she was questioned and arrested at Vancouver International Airport in 2018.
Her team also has at least two more arguments planned: that the U.S. has misled Canadian courts by cherry-picking evidence in its record of the case, and that the charges themselves violate international law.
Meng remains under virtual house arrest on $10 million bail.