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Canada must stop the schoolyard bullying and release Meng

published September 23, 2020

A Reuters story recently reported links in Brazil between Huawei and Skycom that the news agency suggests could support the U.S. case against Huawei, although it is unclear how the revelations could implicate Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou or impact her ongoing extradition case.

The agency says corporate records filed in Brazil show that Huawei and Skycom were “closely intertwined there for five years after Huawei disposed of its shares in Skycom in 2007.” The report names Ken Hu and Guo Ping – who alternate as chairmen of Huawei – as still being involved in Skycom, a corporation allegedly used it to violate American sanctions against importing U.S. computer gear to Iran. While Huawei and Meng have admitted that Huawei once owned Skycom, and later “exercised a level of control over Skycom,” Huawei has maintained that those dealings remained at arm’s length.

Reuters claims the criminal case is “part of a multifaceted, global campaign by Washington to check the power of Huawei, a front in America’s broadening cold war with China.” Its litigation is therefore decidedly politically motivated, and Meng should ultimately be immune from extradition.

But owing to a misreading of section 23(3) of the Extradition Act, which allows David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, to stop proceedings at any time (as 100 former diplomats have urged him to do), the convoluted extradition hearing continues, causing unnecessary pain and expense for all concerned.

Two Michaels caught up in the drama

That includes the two Michaels, two Canadians arrested in China in the wake of what that country regards as the arbitrary detention of Meng.

“Huawei’s relationship with Skycom is central to the high-profile U.S. criminal case,” states the Reuters article, which claims that “Huawei’s control over Skycom was even stronger than American prosecutors have asserted.

“Corporate records show that two additional Huawei executives ran a company that owned Skycom – not just Meng, the sole executive named by prosecutors. Records also show that Huawei’s control of Skycom extended to Brazil, not only Iran, and lasted through the period of the alleged sanctions violations, long after the Chinese tech giant claims it sold its 100% stake.”

The Extradition Act allows for the Attorney General of Canada, on behalf of the United States, to file additional information relative to committal as it arises in what are called “supplementary records of the case” (SROC), which are considered to be part of the original record of the case (ROC) drafted by the U.S. prosecutor. New SROC’s may be filed without notice even after the hearing proper has started – even on the very last day of the hearing to refute defence arguments.

The person sought, on the other hand, is generally not allowed to tender evidence in her own defence. So it is a completely lopsided system – made even less fair in Meng’s case by the intransigence of Lametti in refusing to intervene to stop the nonsense.

In order to be received in an extradition hearing, the information in the SROC must be relevant to the case for committal for extradition. Much of what Reuters disclosed regarding Brazil and the connection between Huawei and Skycom is not relevant to the charges against Meng Wanzhou; in fact, she is relegated to “secretary” in one of the allegations, and it could be argued that she was negotiating in good faith with the limited information she had been given by the alternating CEOs.

She may well have believed the representations she made, knowing that Huawei had technically severed ties with the corporation that was allegedly continuing to deal with Iran after U.S. sanctions had been put in place. No further information is given about the alleged breach of sanctions of Meng’s alleged role in giving assurances to HSBC of Huawei’s compliance with U.S. sanctions.

Why target Meng?

The larger question is, why arrest Meng and not the other, larger players? Was she merely the largest fish they could catch, by virtue of her affectionate connection with Canada? Was her provisional arrest part of the political strategy of bringing Huawei to its knees?

The United States is desperate to undermine Huawei’s 5-G technology, to “slay the giant” by fair means or foul. Politically, this cheating tactic allowed U.S. 5G corporations a head start by holding back the then clear frontrunner in the race. The political end justified the unethical means: the United States and by its complicity, Canada, acted in concert to ensnare and eventually destroy the “dragon.”

It’s the oldest schoolboy trick in the book: one kid crawls unseen behind the victim and the other pushes. Canada still revels in indulging in such sandbox tricks to help out its bullying big brother.

Reuter’s new information adds other targets that would seem to be much more directly involved than Meng. Its revelations should have no bearing whatsoever on the current extradition proceedings, except to demonstrate that the Americans should have cast a wider net rather than targeting Meng personally.

Her arrest was political

They will not likely have an effect on the extradition proceeding, which will probably result in committal regardless, but it does provide more fodder for the argument to be made to the minister of justice that Meng’s arrest was for a political purpose.

It also adds to the argument (for Lametti to determine) that Meng should be released on humanitarian grounds. Can you imagine the treatment she is likely to receive once she is transferred to a U.S. prison to await trial – which if she doesn’t plead “guilty” will take years to resolve? Canada’s International Assistance Group (IAG) has long maintained a policy that the United States should not allow bail in extradition cases because of flight risk. Should the person return to Canada, IAG maintains, it would require a whole new extradition hearing.

Frankly, Canadians are not up for that.

The politically expedient course of action is for Lametti to do what should have been done in 2018, and which he is allowed to do at any time under s. 23(3) of the Act: order her immediate discharge.

  •  Gary Botting is the author of half a dozen books on extradition including Extradition between Canada and the United States (Brill).