Lawyers for Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on Monday asked Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti to halt the process of extraditing her to the United States to face charges of bank fraud and sanctions evasion.
Meng’s lawyers argued the case against her should be dropped in the name of “human decency,” “Canadian values,” and – more ominously – “Canada’s national interests.”
The government of China has been pressuring Canada to release Meng – who is Communist Party royalty, daughter of revered Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, and a key player in Beijing’s plans to dominate the next-generation 5G wireless network – with everything from blocking Canadian agricultural imports to taking a few Canadians hostage.
Canada’s CBC News picked up on the significance of the argument that letting Meng walk away would be in Canada’s national interest, noting that the request was filed soon after former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien suggested dropping Meng’s case as a means of improving relations with Beijing.
CBC quoted Meng’s legal team advancing a very Beijing-sounding argument that Canada should not serve as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy or involve itself in a fraud case that has no connection to Canadian banks. CBC reported:
“Canada does not police the conduct of foreign persons in foreign lands that have nothing to do with Canada,” the statement from the lawyers says.
Meng’s lawyers refer back to Canada’s 2002 decision — under then-Prime Minister Chrétien’s leadership — not to join the U.S.-led coalition which invaded Iraq; they say Canada must occasionally depart from American foreign policy.
“Canadian governments have had to make difficult decisions, sometimes at odds with the foreign policy initiatives of its allies, including the United States, in order to assert essential Canadian values of human decency, fairness, tolerance and respect for human rights and the rule of law,” the lawyers say.
The lawyers said Canada is at a “crossroads” because the U.S. wants it to extradite Meng to face trial “for conduct that could not be an offense in Canada and which is at odds with Canadian values and established foreign policy regarding Iran.”
The charges against Meng revolve around a scheme to violate U.S. and European Union sanctions against Iran using an “unofficial subsidiary” of Huawei. The activities in question occurred between 2009 and 2014 before former U.S. President Barack Obama lifted long-standing sanctions against Iran with his nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
An arrest warrant was issued for Meng by a U.S. judge in August 2018 and she was detained in December at a Canadian airport while traveling from Hong Kong to Mexico. When extradition proceedings began, the Canadian government argued that she “deceived financial institutions and in doing so put their pecuniary and financial interests at risk,” which is illegal under Canadian law.
Meng’s legal team specifically challenged that assertion in their appeal to the justice minister. According to the South China Morning Post:
Even if Ms. Meng made a misrepresentation (which is denied) to the foreign bank in Hong Kong about Skycom and its commercial sales into Iran, that conduct could not, as a matter of Canadian law, ever give rise to a successful prosecution for fraud in Canada. That is because the foreign bank could never be at risk of economic loss in Canada under Canadian sanctions law. Put simply, the foreign bank did nothing that could have tripped any Canadian criminal or sanctions laws.
The National Post reported on Monday that Meng’s lawyers also appealed to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to intervene in the case, citing former prime minister Jean Chretien’s argument that canceling extradition for Meng is vital to improving Canada’s relationship with China and securing the freedom of Canadians held by the Chinese.
The National Post expected Freeland to be unresponsive to this appeal, as she has warned against setting a bad precedent by caving to Chinese pressure. Freeland has described Meng’s arrest as lawful and said her rights were being properly respected by the Canadian court system.