Huawei lawyers to grill Canada border agent in CFO’s U.S. extradition case

VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A Canadian border agent who interrogated Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou before her arrest on a warrant from the United States two years ago will face more questions on Thursday in court about his interactions with police before her arrest.

Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

Meng, 48, is accused of misrepresenting Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s dealings with Iran, putting one of its lenders HSBC at risk of violating U.S. trade sanctions.

She has denied the charges and mounted a defence, asking that her extradition be thrown out because of alleged collusion between Canadian and U.S. authorities among other reasons.

Meng’s arrest has set off a diplomatic conflict between Ottawa and Beijing. Soon after her detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges. The two men remain in detention.

Hearings in the British Columbia Supreme Court this week and next week consist of witness testimony from Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officials, regarding their conduct during Meng’s investigation and arrest.

Recent testimony has reviewed and scrutinized minute-to-minute developments at the airport on the day of Meng’s arrest, as her lawyers seek to prove abuses of process that invalidate her extradition.

On Wednesday, CBSA agent Somwith Katragadda recounted meeting with RCMP officers before Meng arrived at the Vancouver International Airport in December 2018. He testified about his concerns that the CBSA’s investigation should be kept separate from any police actions.

“I didn’t want to even seem like we were working together on this, because we really weren’t,” Katragadda told the court.

Huawei’s legal team is using the witness cross examination to establish their claim that U.S. and Canadian authorities illegally coordinated ahead of Meng’s arrest at Vancouver International Airport, to invalidate her extradition request.

So far three other border officials and a RCMP officer involved in the arrest have appeared for questioning.

Another RCMP official, who is now retired and is alleged by Meng’s lawyers to have illegally passed identifying details about her electronic devices to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, declined to testify.

More police and border agency officials are expected to be called to the witness stand in the coming days. The hearings are expected to finish into April 2021.

Editing by Denny Thomas and Kim Coghill

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