Officers who detained, arrested Huawei executive say they never searched her phones
Border security agents and an RCMP officer who were involved in the questioning and the eventual arrest of a Huawei executive now awaiting an extradition hearing to the U.S. on fraud charges say they acted lawfully, and deny they violated Meng Wanzhou’s Charter rights.
In a response to a civil lawsuit filed by Meng’s lawyer in March, Canada's justice department rejects that Meng was “unlawfully or wrongfully detained or imprisoned” when she was approached by law enforcement at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, 2018.
- Scroll down or click here to see both court documents
According to the defendants' version of facts, part of the document filed Monday in B.C. Supreme Court, CBSA officers, aware of the extradition warrant for the Huawei CFO, checked IDs in the jetbridge as passengers disembarked from Cathay Pacific CX838 from Hong Kong.
When they found Meng, they asked her if she had any mobile phones. The response says she turned two phones over to officers, and told them while she was in transit to Mexico, she planned to enter Canada because she “intended to visit her house in Vancouver to drop off some belongings.”
CBSA agents say they accompanied Meng to the immigration and customs hall, where a kiosk issued a receipt that, based on a “lookout” in the CBSA system, automatically directed Meng to secondary inspection.
CBSA: Three hour secondary inspection 'normal'
While Meng’s lawyers argue the CBSA officers detained, searched, and interrogated her “under the guise of a routine border check,” the response says the claim is “without merit” and the search and questioning were only done to determine her admissibility to Canada.
According to the defendants' version of facts, two CBSA officers, both named in the court filing, physically searched and x-rayed Meng’s luggage. They found a laptop, a tablet and a USB storage device, in addition to the two phones.
One of the officers asked “[Meng] to provide the numbers and passwords for the phones, in the event that his duties required him to examine their contents for customs or immigration purposes.”
The officer says he wrote it down on a piece of paper and in a notebook, and at no time did any officer examine the contents of the electronic devices.
The response to the civil claim says that secondary inspection took about three hours, “within normal time range” for such inspections.
Lawyers for the Department of Justice, which filed the response, also say that Meng did not ask for a lawyer at any point during the process.
"It does look suspicious," said Kevin Westell, a criminal lawyer not connected to the case whom CTV News Vancouver asked to review the documents.
"Whether or not it arises to the level of (abuse of power), that’s a question the courts are going to have to answer," he said, adding the burden of proof lies with Meng and that it’s based on a balance of probabilities.
Justice department: Meng 'willing' to speak with RCMP
The court filing says a CBSA officer told Meng another government agency wanted to talk to her and that Meng “indicated she was willing.”
Moments later, Meng was arrested by two RCMP officers in an interview room. It is at that point, the Department of Justice says, that she was informed of her Charter rights.
The defendants' version of facts says Meng “asked to speak with her lawyer in China, and arrangements were made for her to do so in a timely manner.”
After her arrest, Meng was transported to the RCMP’s Richmond detachment.
The RCMP say they took control of her luggage, electronic devices, and the paper with the passwords.
“At no time has any RCMP officer examined the contents of the electronic devices or the phones,” the response says.
The civil lawsuit is separate from the process to extradite Meng to the United States to face 13 criminal charges, including conspiracy, fraud and obstruction. Both Meng and Huawei deny the charges.
Westell says the outcome of the civil case could potentially impact the extradition process.
Meng’s lawyers have already indicated they plan to seek a stay of the proceedings based on an arrest they call unlawful.
The Huaewei CFO is currently living in her Shaughnessy home under a strict set of bail conditions, including electronic monitoring. Her next court appearance related to the extradition matter is scheduled for late September. Experts say that process could take years.
None of the charges have been proven in court.
Full versions of the civil claim and the response follow. Viewing this on our mobile beta site? Tap here to see a compatible version.