Huawei’s CFO (Chief Financial Officer), Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, appears to be preparing for a long legal fight against extradition to the United States. The princess of Huawei is ready to move from her C$5 million (US$3.7 million; £2.8 million; RM15.4 million) six-bedroom house to her newly renovated C$13 million (US$9.6 million; £7.4 million; RM40 million)seven-bedroom mansion.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia reportedly has approved Meng’s request to move this Saturday to the estate three times the size of her current residence – for security and privacy reason. Also known as Cathy Meng, Sabrina Meng, who is the eldest daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in December 2018 by Canadian authorities at the request of the U.S. government.
On Wednesday (May 8), her team of lawyers has basically thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, arguing why the Meng’s case should not be extradited to the U.S. The battle has just begun. Her case could take years considering that the extraordinary high-profile case involves a geopolitical and economic battle between two superpowers – United States and China.
After Wednesday’s legal arguments in a Vancouver court, the next hearing has been scheduled on 23 September, while the formal extradition hearings would begin only in January next year. It’s absolutely possible that her stay in Canada could outlive President Donald Trump’s presidency. Meng’s lawyers are seeking a stay of her extradition due to “political factors.”
Here’s Sabrina Meng defence attorney’s legal arguments against extradition to the U.S. to face charges. The primary allegation is that the Huawei CFO violated a U.S. trade embargo against Iran via a Hong Kong-based company named Skycom Tech Co Ltd. She was alleged to have lied to a bank from 2009 to 2014 about Huawei’s relationship with Skycom, an unofficial Huawei subsidiary in Iran.
In December 2012, Reuters reported that Skycom’s office in Tehran offered to sell at least 1.3 million Euros (US$1.5 million) worth of computer equipment produced by the now-defunct U.S. firm Hewlett-Packard to Mobile Telecommunication Co of Iran, despite the embargo. Therefore, Meng had used Skycom, arguably a Huawei subsidiary, to evade sanctions on Iran.
Canadian prosecutors alleged that Ms Meng has committed “conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions” because she had denied to U.S. bankers any direct connections between Huawei and SkyCom, when in fact “SkyCom is Huawei”. A court paper also revealed that Meng served on the board of Skycom from February 2008 to April 2009.
Ms Meng faces up to 30 years in prison in the U.S. if found guilty of the charges. However, her lawyers said she is innocent because the banks involved, including HSBC and Standard Chartered, actually had knowledge of the nature of Skycom’s business and operations in Iran and understood the company’s relationship with Huawei.
Sabrina Meng’s defense team has also taken offence with her arrest on December 1, 2018 in Vancouver International Airport. Her legal eagles claimed that during the three hours she was held, her luggage was detained and searched. The FBI (U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation) has also seized her cellphone and electronic devices, forcing her to reveal her passwords of the devices.
When 46-year-old Meng landed at Vancouver International Airport aboard a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong at 11:35am on December 1, 2018, she was expecting to have a 12-hour layover before proceeding to Mexico. Upon learning of her trip, the U.S. had requested Canada to arrest the Huawei CFO. On November 30, a Canadian judge reportedly agreed to grant the U.S. request.
The arrest has escalated tensions between the U.S. and China because coincidentally, it happened on the same night that President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China dined together in Buenos Aires and agreed to a 90-day trade truce. U.S. stock futures tumbled, followed by Asian markets, as news of the arrest heightened the sense a major collision was brewing.
But on Wednesday, Meng’s defence team argued that the extradition request from the U.S. does not satisfy a requirement known as “double criminality.”Double criminality, or dual criminality, states that a suspect can be extradited from one country to stand trial for breaking a second country’s laws only if a similar law exists in the extraditing country.
In a nutshell, the crime of which Sabrina Meng is accused of by the U.S. must also be a crime in Canada. In this case, the Huawei CFO is accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. However, her attorneys argued that Canada does not have sanctions on financial services in Iran. Hence, she cannot be extradited for the alleged bank and wire fraud or conspiracy to commit the offence.
More importantly, her lawyers argued in court that the arrest has been politically motivated from the beginning, despite Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that Ms Meng’s arrest had “no political involvement”. Meng’s lawyers said comments by Trump, who said the charges could be dropped if that would help China trade talks, proved that the case was politically motivated.
After the court hearing on Wednesday, Huawei said in a statement that the criminal case against Meng was “guided by political considerations and tactics, not by the rule of law”. So, the defence is fighting the extradition based on three points. First, the Canadian authorities had breached Ms. Meng’s rights under Canada’s constitution. Meng’s lawyers said “her rights were put in total suspension” when she was held at the airport.
Second, the defence legal eagles said the statements from President Trump were “intimidating and corrosive of the rule of law” and should disqualify the United States from being able to extradite Ms. Meng. Third, the accusation that Meng breached U.S. sanctions against Iran does not constitute a crime in Canada, a prerequisite for her extradition to proceed.