Meng defence argues document disclosure wouldn’t harm Canada’s national security

Meng defence argues document disclosure wouldn’t harm Canada’s national security

OTTAWA — Lawyers for a Huawei executive facing possible extradition to the United States are disputing the Canadian government’s claim that it can’t release some documents in the case because it would compromise national security.

Meng Wanzhou is wanted on fraud charges in New York, but she denies the allegations against her.

During a virtual Federal Court hearing on Monday, defence lawyer Ian Carter questioned how releasing the documents could hurt Canada’s relations with China any more than a government affidavit that is already public.

“If there is a genuine concern from the … government of Canada about damage to relations between Canada and China, one wonders why this affidavit would have been drafted and filed publicly,” Carter said.

“It is a series of propositions and allegations that paint China in a negative light.”

The affidavit by Global Affairs Canada’s director general in South Asia alleges that China regularly seeks to blame foreign governments for the consequences of its actions, he said.

Carter also said the Federal Bureau of Investigations in the United States wouldn’t expect any of its correspondences to remain confidential because it is a law enforcement agency, not an intelligence service.

Robert Frater, a lawyer representing Canada’s attorney general in the proceeding, told the judge the defence team is making “abstract” arguments because they haven’t seen the documents.

The application calls for proper arguments that can only be made in hearings closed to the public because of the sensitivity of the documents, he said.

“To discuss it in the abstract is not useful,” Frater said. “All of these issues really have to be based on the fuller context that will be provided in the closed hearings.”

The public and media have been barred from the resumption of the hearing on Thursday.

Meng is chief financial officer for the Chinese telecommunications giant and the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengei.

She is accused of misrepresenting Huawei’s relationship with Skycom during a presentation to HSBC, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. She has been released on bail during the proceedings and is living in one of her Vancouver houses.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court has already tossed out arguments that the allegations against Meng would not be considered a crime in Canada. Meng’s lawyers are now preparing to argue that her arrest and detention at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 was unlawful.

Meng’s lawyers are seeking further documents to support their case, pointing to a memo from Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, as evidence that there are further relevant documents that have not been disclosed.

The heavily redacted two-page memo is evidence that the intelligence service was in on a plan to delay her arrest, Meng’s lawyers allege.

But Frater told the court Monday that Meng’s lawyers have not proven that the documents they want are relevant to the case. The attorney general must be generous when it comes to disclosing documents, and it has already looked through a defence lens to consider what could be arguably relevant, he said.

“When we are asked to collect documents pursuant to a disclosure order, the Crown is obliged to cast a very broad net,” he said.

He said the Crown will argue “vigorously” against the defence allegations that Meng was subject to an abuse of process during her arrest, when the case returns in the B.C. Supreme Court.

“Just so that the record is clear, the attorney general does not accept that there was any conspiracy to deprive Ms. Meng of her rights. We do not accept that government officials failed to execute the arrest warrant properly. We do not accept that there was any violation of Ms. Meng’s rights.”

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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