VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Lawyers for Huawei’s chief financial officer said on Wednesday that Joe Biden’s election as U.S. president will not undo the political interference in her case, which they say stems from former President Donald Trump’s pledge to intervene if it helped the United States extract a more favorable trade deal from China.
Lawyers for CFO Meng Wanzhou want her U.S. extradition case dismissed on grounds that Trump’s comments soon after her 2018 arrest in Canada meant she would not get a fair trial in the United States. They further argued that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then-foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland had also waded into the debate, proving politicization of Meng’s case.
Meng, 49, was arrested on a U.S. warrant for bank fraud at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 and has since been living under house arrest while fighting extradition. She faces charges of bank fraud in the United States over misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to violate U.S. sanctions. She has said she is innocent.
Ten days after Meng's arrest, then-President Trump told Reuters in an interview that he would intervene in the case if it would help get a better trade deal with China. here
“With that utterance Ms. Meng became a bargaining chip in this economic contest between these two superpowers,” defence lawyer Richard Peck said. “Our contention is that his words amount to an abuse of process.”
Canadian prosecutors have said Trump’s statements are no longer relevant since he has left office and the trade deal has already been signed.
Defence lawyer Isabel Schurman said that position was untenable.
“There has been no change in circumstance,” Schurman told the court, calling it “irrelevant” that the person who holds the office of U.S. president has changed.
Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing broke down in the wake of Meng’s 2018 arrest. Days later, China detained two Canadians on espionage charges, which Canada viewed as retaliation.
Biden said last month, in reference to the case and ensuing diplomatic conflict, “human beings are not bargaining chips.”
Peck said the comment did not adequately repudiate the remarks of the previous president.
“It’s too late,” he said. “The harm has been done and has existed for two years.”
Defence lawyer Mona Duckett cited comments by Freeland that the United States should not “seek to politicize the extradition process,” following Trump’s comments, to support the claim of political interference in the case.
Duckett also pointed to Trudeau’s December 2019 comment that the United States should not sign a final trade agreement with China without resolving the dispute over the two Canadians detained by China after Meng’s arrest.
Canadian prosecutor Robert Frater said the quotes referenced by the defence were out of context and that the defence had ignored the presumption of good faith and inferred the worst.
“That is not a fair way to look at this case,” he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu, said Canada should move quickly to release Meng to help restore relations between the two countries. “That will help to put our relationship back on the normal track,” Cong said in a virtual news conference on Twitter, repeating that China’s arrest of Canadians was not linked to the Meng case.
Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday that at the time, Chinese officials made it clear that the arrest of the two Canadians was in response to Meng.
“Nothing the ambassador can say now will dissuade me from understanding that is indeed the case,” he said.
Meng’s case is scheduled to finish hearings in May.
Reporting by Sarah Berman and Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Denny Thomas, Matthew Lewis and Rosalba O’Brien
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