Canada

Border officer testifies he didn’t suggest Huawei’s Meng was obligated to share passcodes

Defence team for detained Chinese executive hopes this week’s evidence will bolster an argument they will make next year during extradition proceedings that she was subject to an abuse of process

FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou returns to court following a lunch break in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada October 26, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier/File Photo

A border officer denies he led Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to believe she was required to share the passcodes to her phones when he asked for them before her arrest two years ago.

Scott Kirkland, a border services officer, told the hearing he wrote down Meng’s phone numbers and passcodes because she was uncomfortable with her own handwriting.

Kirkland said Meng asked why he needed them and he told her it was for the purposes of the customs and immigration examination at Vancouver’s airport.

He said he asked for the passwords to her other devices but she declined.

“I did not say she had no choice,” Kirkland said under cross-examination by defence lawyer Mona Duckett.

“I explained why we were asking for them.”

The B.C. Supreme Court is hearing evidence this week that Meng’s defence team hopes will bolster an argument they will make next year during extradition proceedings that she was subject to an abuse of process.

However, he acknowledged that when he wrote a new statutory declaration on Dec. 20 correcting some of the time codes he had provided earlier as part of his notes, he did not add that he mistakenly shared the paper with the passcodes.

Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges over allegations she lied to HSBC about Huawei’s relationship with a company doing business in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating American sanctions against that country.

Meng and Huawei deny the allegations.

Next year, her defence team will try to prove she was subject to an abuse of process in three different areas. They allege that her questioning and arrest at the airport was unlawful, that she has been used as a “bargaining chip” by U.S. President Donald Trump in relations with China, and that the United States misled Canadian officials in its summary of allegations against her.

The evidentiary hearing will continue in November.

Court also heard from RCMP Const. Winston Yep this week, who made the arrest.

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The defence alleges that Meng was subjected to a “co-ordinated strategy” to have the RCMP delay her arrest so border officials could question Meng under the pretence of a routine immigration exam, and that both RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency officials kept intentionally poor notes.

Kirkland said the phones remained in an anti-static bag in his pocket and were never examined by border officials while Meng was in the secondary screening room.

Seven minutes after the phone numbers and passcodes were recorded, Meng was escorted into another room where RCMP officers arrested her and informed her of her charter rights to silence and counsel.

Kirkland was not leading the immigration screening and testified that while he was asked to collect her phone numbers, he couldn’t recall if he was asked to collect her passcodes or made the decision himself.

He has said it’s typical to search phones and devices during a customs and immigration examination when there is a suspicion of inadmissibility to Canada, and he assumed the border agency would search Meng’s devices.

Kirkland said he was embarrassed when he realized the piece of paper with the passcodes was sent to RCMP along with Meng’s electronics.

He realized his mistake during a debrief the next week, he said.

“It was an embarrassing moment for me in that meeting,” Kirkland said. “It was heart-wrenching to realize I made that mistake.”

Kirkland denied that the error was only discovered after inquiries were made in January.

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