Ottawa, Jan 21 (IANS) The extradition trial of Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer Huawei who Washington accuses of helping the of Chinese telecommunications giant dodge American sanctions on Iran, has started in the Canadian city of Vancouver.
Meng Wanzhou is being sought by the US on charges that she committed bank fraud and violated US sanctions on Iran by misleading banks about the business Huawei allegedly carried out in that Middle Eastern country through a subsidiary called Skycom, Efe news reported.
The proceedings at the Supreme Court of British Columbia began at 9 a.m. on Mpnday and were being presided over by Judge Heather Holmes.
Attorneys for the 47-year-old Meng are expected to argue that the accusation she faces in the US does not constitute a crime in Canada because Ottawa removed sanctions on Iran in 2016.
If the court agrees, the legal concept of “double criminality” will prevent her from being extradited.
The trial is initially scheduled to last four days, but it could take much longer for a definitive outcome.
Even if the British Columbia court rules in favour of extradition and that decision is upheld on appeal, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei could take the matter to Canada’s Justice Minister and Attorney General, David Lametti, who has the power to deny an extradition if he deems it to be “unjust or oppressive”.
Meng’s case has sparked a diplomatic row between Canada and China.
The Huawei CFO was arrested by Canada at the request of the US on December 1, 2018, in Vancouver, where she was making a stopover on a trip from Hong Kong to Mexico City.
In a multi-count indictment unsealed in January 2019, the US Department of Justice said the charges against tech giant, two Huawei affiliates (including Huawei USA and Skycom) and Meng “relate to a long-running scheme by Huawei, its CFO, and other employees to deceive numerous global financial institutions and the US government regarding Huawei’s business activities in Iran”.
“As alleged in the indictment, beginning in 2007, Huawei employees lied about the company’s relationship to Skycom, falsely asserting it was not an affiliate of Huawei”.
After Meng’s arrest, China froze diplomatic and trade relations with Canada and accused it of violating the human rights of one of its citizens.
Shortly after Meng’s arrest, Beijing also apprehended two Canadian citizens – former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor – and continues to hold them on charges of endangering China’s national security.
Canada has launched an international diplomatic campaign aimed at securing the release of Kovrig and Spavor, further increasing tensions with Chinese authorities.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia released Meng on 10 million Canadian dollars ($7.6 million) in bail on December 11, 2018.
Meng, who is assumed to be the heiress of a fortune valued in the billions of dollars, currently is living with her family in one of two mansions she owns in Vancouver.
Under her bail conditions, Meng must wear a GPS ankle bracelet and pay for her own 24/7 surveillance.