May 8, 2019 / 11:00 AM / 5 months ago

Huawei CFO Meng set to appear in Canada court

VANCOUVER/NEW YORK, May 8 (Reuters) - Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is set to appear in a Canadian court on Wednesday to begin what is expected to be a long legal battle against the United States’ request that she be extradited to face fraud charges.

The largely procedural hearing is the latest development in a case that has escalated tensions between China and both the United States and Canada.

Meng, 47, the daughter of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s billionaire founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December on a U.S. warrant and is fighting extradition on fraud charges that she misled global banks about Huawei’s relationship with a company operating in Iran.

At Wednesday’s 10 a.m. (1700 GMT) hearing before Justice Heather Holmes of the British Columbia Supreme Court, Meng’s lawyers are set to discuss motions they plan to bring, according to Daniel Coles, a lawyer who acted on behalf of media companies to oppose an initial publication ban on the case.

Nothing substantive is expected to be decided, Coles said. But the hearing could indicate how the legal battle will unfold, which some lawyers expect to take more than two years.

Meng’s case has attracted global attention and sparked a diplomatic crisis between Beijing and Ottawa. China has repeatedly demanded Meng’s release.

In recent weeks, China has upped the pressure on Canada and halted Canadian canola imports and suspended the permits of two major pork producers. Chinese police also detained two Canadian citizens after Meng’s arrest.

Meanwhile, a second Huawei Canada executive has the left the company, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Coles said he expects pre-hearing motions relating to disclosure of documents and perhaps the seizure of Meng’s electronic devices, including a computer, iPad and cellphones, when she was detained on Dec. 1.

Lawyers for Meng and spokesmen for the U.S. Department of Justice and Huawei all declined to comment ahead of the hearing.

“It’s going to be the start of a long series of procedural wrangling,” said Vancouver lawyer Gary Botting, who said he was initially consulted by the Meng defense team but is no longer involved in the case. “It will go on for at least two years,” he said, and with appeals could extend to a decade.

Botting said Meng’s lawyers would want more disclosure about the case, including what happened when Meng was arrested at Vancouver airport on Dec. 1 and whether the authorities breached her rights when she was detained when she landed there en route to Mexico.

Meng, who was released from jail in December on $7.5 million bail and must wear a GPS tracker, an ankle bracelet and pay for security guards, has been living in a Vancouver home valued at C$5.6 million in 2017. (Reporting by Evan Duggan in Vancouver and Karen Frefield in New York; additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa Writing by Denny Thomas Editing by Bill Rigby)

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