The RCMP officer who arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou nearly two years ago testified Monday that he wasn’t concerned that U.S. authorities wanted to have her electronic devices stored in a way that would prevent data from being erased.
Const. Winston Yep was the first witness to testify at the extradition proceedings for Meng, who was taken into custody Dec. 1, 2018 on charges she had committed banking fraud in the United States.
Lawyers for Meng, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies being sought for extradition to the U.S., are arguing that there was an abuse of process during the arrest at the Vancouver airport and that Canadian and U.S. authorities conspired to improperly detain her.
Under questioning from federal Crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley, Yep said that on Nov. 30, 2018 he was informed of the request for a provisional arrest of Meng and was aware that it would be a high-profile case because Huawei was the largest telecommunications firm in the world.
When they could not confirm she was on the flight, they returned to their offices with a plan to return the next day, he said.
At the office, he said he received an arrest warrant issued by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Margot Fleming that said Meng was to be arrested immediately.
Asked by Gibb-Carsley as to what the word “immediately” meant to him, Yep replied that it meant that the arrest was to be done “as soon as practicable,” when it was safe to do so, taking into account officer safety and passenger safety.
Yep said that after CBSA officers had dealt with Meng, he read her her rights and then took her into custody. She was cooperative upon arrest, he said.
During cross-examination, Richard Peck, a lawyer for Meng, spent considerable time questioning Yep about his statement that there were safety concerns involving Meng.
Peck wondered whether there were genuine safety concerns for Meng, a 46-year-old international executive.
“I don’t know her,” replied Yep. “I don’t know what she’s capable of. We always have to keep our guard up.”
Yep, whose cross-examination continues Tuesday, was the first of several RCMP and CBSA witnesses expected to testify this week and into November.
Meng was present in court Monday and sat quietly in the prisoner’s dock during the proceedings.
He said U.S. authorities requested that once Meng’s electronic devices were seized, they were to be put in a special bag to prevent data from being erased remotely.
Yep, who was an acting corporal at the time, said that the request for the devices being secured didn’t cause him any concerns.
“It was part of the arrest process,” Yep told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes.
Another concern for Meng’s lawyers is the fact that a plan to have the RCMP initially arrest her after she arrived from Hong Kong was changed to have the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) conduct an inquiry into Meng’s immigration status first.
Yep said that because the Vancouver airport was under the jurisdiction of the CBSA, it was decided that agency would deal with Meng first and speak to her regarding her immigration issues. Then the RCMP would come in and serve the warrant on her, he said.
“We came to the conclusion that they would conduct their process first and then we would come in and effect the arrest after they were done with their process.”
Regarding the issue of securing Meng’s cellular phones and other devices, Yep said that they asked the CBSA to seize her devices and put them in a bag to shield them from data erasure.
“They had no objection. They were okay with that.”
Earlier, Yep said that after receiving the request to arrest Meng on Nov. 30, he and a colleague went to the airport to confirm whether Meng was on the flight from Hong Kong.