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Political interference could 'trump' extradition attempt

published February 5, 2019

Counsel for embattled Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou will rely heavily on constitutional and treaty arguments in a fight against their client’s extradition, says B.C. extradition lawyer Dr. Gary Botting, who has advised Meng’s legal team.

Botting, principal of Gary N.A. Botting, Barrister and Solicitor, tells that the court will consider Canada’s Extradition Act and treaty with the U.S., which prohibit requests that are politically motivated.

“You cannot extradite somebody for political purposes. That's a treaty provision that's a much larger and more important provision than whether or not this is criminal in Canada,” he tells the online publication. “Why single her out as chief financial officer? Why not handle it with a fine, especially when they're saying that she faces up to 30 years in jail?”

Earlier this week, the United States issued a formal extradition request to Canada for Meng, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer, and daughter of its founder. She was arrested on a provisional warrant Dec. 1 at Vancouver's airport on a request from U.S. authorities, The Canadian Press (CP) reports.

Canada's Department of Justice has until March 1 to determine whether to authorize an extradition hearing. If Canada issues that authority, Meng would next appear in court March 6, and hearing dates would be set.

The U.S. Department of Justice indictment accuses Huawei and Meng of misrepresenting their ownership of a Hong Kong-based subsidiary between 2007 and 2017 in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran, CP reports. The company and Meng deny the charges.

Canada has granted extradition in more than 90 per cent of cases in the last 10 years, the South China Morning Post reports.

However, this request has been complicated by a China-U.S. trade war, and ongoing high-stakes negotiations between the superpowers, the news agency says.

While American officials deny charges against Meng are linked to the talks, U.S. President Donald Trump said in December that he could intervene in the case if it would help forge a trade deal with China.

"Whatever's good for this country, I would do,'' Trump said in an interview with Reuters. "If I think it's good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made — which is a very important thing — what's good for national security — I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary.”

Botting tells Yahoo that those comments may play favourably in Meng’s defence.

“Saying that he can use this as a bargaining chip in international relations, trade negotiations, for example, that might be something that impacts the extradition hearing in Canada.”

He tells Yahoo that two questions must be answered by the Department of Justice before it grants authority to proceed to an extradition hearing. Have they arrested the right person? And, is the charge laid out in the U.S. indictment considered a crime in Canada?

While Canada is not connected to U.S. sanctions against Iran, Botting tells the online publication the fraud charge would be enough to trigger an extradition hearing.

However, the spectre of the political interference question looms, he says.

“If the extradition is for political purpose, that would trump all." Botting says.

“If the extradition is deemed by the courts or the minister to be for a political purpose, that would trump all." Botting says.

- with files from The Canadian Press