HSBC evidence shows US made ‘outright false’ claims, Meng Wanzhou’s lawyer argues at extradition hearing

·5-min read

A trove of HSBC material consisting of more than 300 pages of emails and internal bank documents shows the US made selective, misleading and “outright false” claims to Meng Wanzhou’s Canadian extradition hearing, the Huawei executive’s lawyers said on Tuesday.

The American record of its case against Meng – in which she is accused of defrauding the bank – is thus “so defective” that her extradition hearing should place no reliance on it, her lawyer Mark Sandler told a Vancouver court as he argued for the HSBC documents to be admitted as evidence.

It is “relatively rare” that a person sought for extradition would seek to challenge the accuracy of the requesting state’s record of the case, Sandler acknowledged.

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However, “we do not resile from categorising this as an exceptional case that demands an exceptional remedy”, Sandler told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, who is hearing the marathon extradition battle in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The HSBC documents were released on Tuesday, after Holmes last week lifted a publication ban. The release of the material was delayed by several days so that names and identifying details of HSBC staff and others could be redacted, in line with Holmes’ ruling.

Meng Wanzhou returns to court after a lunch break in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
Meng Wanzhou returns to court after a lunch break in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Meng had initially sought to keep the material secret, after she received it from HSBC as a result of a legal settlement struck with the bank in Hong Kong in April. The deal had “contractually bound” Meng to seek a publication ban, but she was not prevented from using the material if she failed, her lawyers have previously said.

The documents had been compiled in what Holmes described as a “massive compendium”.

Meng – who is Huawei’s chief financial officer and a daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei – is accused of defrauding HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, via a subsidiary called Skycom and another firm called Canicula. Her allegedly false statements, US federal prosecutors say, risked putting the bank in breach of US sanctions against Iran.

In a written submission, Meng’s lawyers say the HSBC material showed that senior bank staff knew of Huawei’s connection to those companies, thus undermining the allegation of fraud.

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“The Requesting State says that HSBC would not have maintained Huawei as a client had it known the true relationship between Huawei and Skycom. In reality, senior executives were aware of that relationship,” it said.

While the US record of the case depicted a distinction between junior bank staff who knew of those connections, and senior bank staff who were kept in the dark, the documents showed otherwise, Meng’s application said.

Sandler said that the HSBC documents would show that the US gave a selective narrative of who knew what at HSBC about Huawei, Skycom and Canicula.

“HSBC’s own records show [that Skycom] was also controlled by Huawei,” said Sandler, adding that therefore, “there is no plausible case for committal”.

The material includes email chains that Sandler said were misleadingly summarised by the Americans, while the written submission said the new evidence, in contrast, “consists of authenticated, reliable business records from HSBC, the alleged victim”.

Another lawyer for Meng, Scott Fenton, said that although the US authorities already had the original emails, it “chose to parse them … and built an assertion that only junior people knew [about Skycom and Huawei]”.

“The picture that’s painted in the ROC [record of the case] is not accurate, it’s not reliable,” Fenton said.

In a written argument, Canadian government lawyers representing US interests in the extradition hearing argued that the HSBC documents should not be admitted as evidence.

“The proposed evidence is incapable of demonstrating any part of the various records of the case are unreliable,” it said, and considering the ultimate reliability of the body of evidence was “a trial issue”, not a matter for an extradition hearing.

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In any case, “the proposed evidence largely corroborates” the US record of the case, it said, and “demonstrates the significant weight HSBC placed on the Applicant’s [Meng’s] misleading statements”.

The US case hinges on a PowerPoint presentation that Meng gave to a HSBC executive in a Hong Kong teahouse in 2013, in which she is alleged to have deceived the bank about the connection between Huawei and Skycom.

People cannot be extradited from Canada if they are accused of an action that would not constitute a crime if committed there. While breaching US sanctions is not a crime in Canada, Meng has been accused of the extraditable offence of fraud.

Meng has been fighting extradition since her arrest at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018, threw China’s relationships with Canada and the US into disarray.

Her lawyers say that she is the victim of an abuse of process and that the US bid to have her extradited to New York should be thrown out.

In a media statement, Huawei Canada said the HSBC documents “show there is no evidence of fraud … They show that Huawei’s control over Skycom was not kept from senior HSBC executives”.

“As the case enters its next phase, Huawei remains confident in Meng Wanzhou’s innocence. We will continue to support Ms Meng’s pursuit of justice and freedom.”

The hearing was adjourned until Wednesday.

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