VANCOUVER/TORONTO (Reuters) – Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou will be in a Vancouver courtroom on Monday for the first day of her extradition trial, a process expected to take months – possibly years – to decide whether she can be extradited from Canada to the United States.
The United States has charged her with bank fraud, and accused her of misleading HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA.L) about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s [HWT.UL] business in Iran.
Meng, 47 is the daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei and remains free on bail in Canada. She has said she is innocent and is fighting the extradition in part because her alleged conduct was not illegal in Canada, an argument known legally as “double criminality.”
Unlike the United States, Canada did not have sanctions against Iran at the time Canadian officials authorized commencing with the extradition, her lawyers have said.
The first phase of the trial will last at least four days, but legal experts previously said it could be years before a decision on Meng’s extradition is made since Canada’s slow-moving justice system allows many decisions to be appealed.
Richard Kurland, a federal policy expert and lawyer who is not involved with the case calls Meng’s double criminality argument around the absence of Canadian sanctions against Iran a sure bet.
“I think the defense has a slam dunk. There are no Iranian sanctions in Canada and anything (the prosecutors bring up) that’s related to an Iranian sanction in Canada may well be dismissed,” he said.
The case has had a chilling effect on Canadian-Chinese relations. China has accused Canada’s arrest of being politically motivated, a charge further complicated by U.S. President Donald Trump comments to Reuters that he would move to cancel the charges if it would help him get a better trade deal with China.
Soon after Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadians — former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor — and handed over the cases of to a prosecutor in China in early December last year.
Since her arrest Meng has been living in a mansion in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighborhood, among some of the most expensive real estate in the country.
Meng’s legal team argued in November that she could not be extradited as Canada does not have sanctions against Iran at the time Canadian officials authorized commencing with the extradition, her conduct was not illegal.
In response, Canada’s attorney general said that Meng was arrested on charges of fraud and misleading HSBC, which is a crime in both countries.
However, the prosecution’s argument that Meng committed fraud might stand up, Kurland added.
“But there’s still spaghetti clinging to the wall: you have broad allegations of fraud, and so the position of the crown may be ‘well even if the Iranian sanctions material is taken off our desk, we can establish fraud, it’s a standalone, not related to Iranian sanctions. There was false information or whatever given to the bank,’” Kurland added.
In filings released on Friday, Meng’s lawyers said that extraditing Meng to the United States based on American sanctions against Iran would set a dangerous precedent and could even undermine Canada’s policy toward Iran, Meng’s lawyers argued in court documents released on Friday.
Meng’s legal team will call evidence in the last week of April, and the second phase, focusing on abuse of process and whether Canadian officials followed the law while arresting Meng, will begin in June. Concluding arguments are scheduled for the last week of September and first week of October this year.
Reporting by Tessa Vikander in Vancouver and Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker