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Canada

Judge in Meng Wanzhou case orders RCMP and CBSA to disclose documents

A judge in the Meng Wanzhou extradition case has ordered the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the federal justice department to release more documents related to her allegation that she was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated at the Vancouver airport.

In a ruling released Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said she was satisfied that the Huawei executive had met the legal test for further disclosure of documents, but added that the test was not a “demanding” one.

“The order I make does not predict or imply that Ms. Meng’s claim of abuse of process will ultimately succeed,” said the judge in a 14-page ruling.

Meng, the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant, wants a stay of the proceedings seeking to have her extradited to the United States on grounds she participated in a fraudulent scheme to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Her lawyers have argued that there has been an abuse of process in two ways — the U.S. is improperly attempting to use the proceedings for economic and political gain, and that her arrest on Dec. 1, 2018 was unlawful.

After Meng’s flight arrived in Vancouver, CBSA officers seized her cellphones after U.S. authorities asked that her electronic devices be turned over.

During questioning by the CBSA, Meng was asked to provide the passcodes to her cellphones and electronic devices, and she complied with the request.

When the CBSA ended their dealings with Meng after about three hours, they suspended the immigration examination and allowed her to enter Canada.

RCMP then stepped in and executed a provisional arrest warrant that had been issued by a B.C. Supreme Court judge. RCMP took custody of Meng’s electronic devices.

During legal submissions on an application by Meng’s lawyers for further disclosure, it was admitted that the CBSA had mistakenly handed over the passcodes for the electronic devices to the RCMP, and that an RCMP officer had opened the devices and made a record of their serial numbers and unique identifiers.

Meng’s lawyers argued that those facts, including an FBI request to the RCMP for images of the devices or serial number information on the same day as the RCMP officer obtained them, support her allegation that Canadian authorities intended to improperly provide evidence to the FBI and that the RCMP did so.

Her lawyers contended that the RCMP’s original plan was to execute the warrant by going onto the plane to effect an immediate arrest was changed for an improper purpose, namely to allow the CBSA to gather evidence to help the U.S. investigation.

Lawyers for the federal Crown argued that there was no change in plan and that the approach taken was a reasonable one designed to implement the warrant and comply with immigration requirements.

They denied that Canadian authorities planned to give or actually gave covert assistance to U.S. authorities by unlawful means.

To help with their argument, Meng’s lawyers sought additional disclosure to an already voluminous amount of disclosure provided by the Crown.

In her ruling, the judge said that in certain areas where the parties relied on competing inferences from “notable gaps” in the evidence, she viewed the evidence handed over to explain the gaps to be “strategic in its character yet impoverished in its substance.”

The judge said that largely unexplained is the simple error of turning over to the RCMP, contrary to law, the passcodes the CBSA had required Meng to produce.

“Similarly incomplete in its substance … is the Attorney-General’s evidence tendered to rebut inferences from other evidence that the RCMP improperly sent serial numbers and other identifiers of Ms. Meng’s devices to the FBI,” she said.

“This specific and notable feature of the evidence, considered in light of the body of evidence as a whole, raises questions beyond the frivolous or speculative about the chain of events.”

Meng’s extradition hearing is scheduled to get under way in January.

kfraser@postmedia.com

twitter.com/keithrfraser

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