Huawei's big week in court begins with extradition hearing in Vancouver

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(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, arrived in a packed courthouse in Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday morning for a hearing that could determine whether she is extradited from Canada to stand trial in the United States on charges of bank fraud and sanctions violations.

The hearing comes just over a year after Meng’s arrest in Vancouver on behalf of the United States, a highly politicized move that could have significant implications for Meng and Huawei, as well as for relations between Canada, China and the United States. In addition to her executive role, Meng is also the daughter of Huawei’s CEO, Ren Zhengfei.

Following Meng’s arrest, two Canadians were detained in China, in what was largely seen as retaliation. China said at the time there was no comparison between the two cases.

Even before Meng’s arrival Monday morning, a group of media and demonstrators had gathered outside the courthouse. Protestors held signs that read: “Free Ms. Meng. Bring Michael home. Trump stop bullying us. Equal Justice,” referring to the Canadians arrested in China.

VANCOUVER, BC – JANUARY 17: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her house on her way to a court appearance on January 17, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Meng has been under house arrest in Vancouver while awaiting the extradition trial. She arrived Monday wearing a pair of black Manolo Blahnik Hangisi pumps that showed off her ankle monitor. She waved to the waiting media.

The extradition trial does not aim to prove or disprove the United States’ allegations against Meng, only to determine whether – if true – the allegations meet the Canadian standard required for extradition.

This week’s hearing covers a crucial element of the extradition process called “double criminality.” In order to extradite someone from Canada, the conduct they will be tried for in the destination country — in this case the United States — must also be a crime under Canadian law.

Monday’s hearing focused on Meng’s argument against her extradition.

Meng and Huawei have denied the allegations in the United States’ charges. For the purpose of this hearing, though, Meng’s defense team’s arguments are based on the assumption that the US allegations are true, though the team has not said it believes that they are.

In the extradition trial, it is not necessary to to determine if Meng is guilty of the conduct the United States has alleged, only that if the alleged conduct occurred in Canada it would be sufficient enough to try her in criminal court there.

Canada’s attorney general has argued that because Meng and Huawei are alleged to have committed bank fraud, which is a crime in the United States and Canada, the double criminality standard is met.

In addition to those charges, the US government alleges Meng illegally evaded US sanctions against Iran. But Meng’s defense team has argued that the standard is not met because the essence of the US case against Meng includes violations of sanctions that Canada has not imposed on Iran. They said the allegation of bank fraud is only significant in light of US sanctions against Iran, which do not apply in Canada.

A member of her defense counsel opened testimony Monday saying: “One way to begin is by posing a question: Would we be here in the absence of US sanctions law. Our respectful submission and response is no.”

“This extradition has every appearance of the US seeking to enlist Canada to enforce the very sanctions which we have repudiated,” Meng’s lawyer said, noting Canada remains in the multi-nation Iran nuclear agreement that the Trump administration withdrew from in May.

In a statement posted online Monday morning, Huawei said the company trusts in “Canada’s judicial system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence.”

The hearing is expected to run through Thursday.

If the Canadian federal judge determines that the double criminality standard is met, the extradition process will continue. If not, Meng could be released.

Huawei’s troubles in the United States started a year ago, and include several lawsuits and its placement on the Entity List, which restricted it from buying from US suppliers.

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