Meng Wanzhou’s lawyer on Monday condemned a former Canadian police officer for his “unprecedented” refusal to testify at the Huawei Technologies executive’s extradition hearing, saying the court should not believe the ex-officer’s affidavit that he did not send information about Meng’s phones to the American FBI.
Former Royal Canadian Mounted Police staff sergeant Ben Chang, who left the force and became a casino executive in the Chinese territory of Macau, has retained a lawyer who says he will not appear at the hearing in the Supreme Court of British Columbia; a document filed by Canadian government lawyers cited “witness safety” for their previous refusal to hand over material related to Chang.
“There is a certain shock value in the notion a former senior police officer would refuse to be cross-examined on an affidavit … But that’s what we’re dealing with,” said Meng’s lawyer Scott Fenton.
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He told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that she should place “no value” on Chang’s affidavit.
“Of utmost concern in this case is that S/Sgt Chang is not merely failing to testify through no fault of his own or for some justifiable tactical choice of the DOJ [Department of Justice]. To the contrary – he is refusing to appear for cross-examination,” Meng’s lawyers said in their written argument.
Fenton said Holmes should infer that cross-examination of Chang would not support the credibility of his affidavit about the electronic serial numbers of Meng’s devices and whether they were sent to US investigators.
Chang dealt with Meng’s devices when he was in charge of the RCMP’s financial integrity unit in 2018, after serving as the RCMP liaison officer in Hong Kong for four years. In 2019, he retired from the police force and became assistant vice-president for security at the Galaxy casino.
Meng’s lawyers have been pressing a case that she is the victim of an abuse of process, and that her treatment by Canadian border officers and the RCMP was a covert and illegal evidence-gathering exercise conducted at the behest of the FBI. They say the only remedy is that she be freed.
Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei has been fighting against extradition to the US since she was arrested at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018, on an American fraud warrant.
She is wanted to face trial in New York on charges that she defrauded HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, thus putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions. She denies the charges.
In June last year, the Canadian government lawyers representing US interests in the extradition case asserted privilege over a document they were refusing to turn over to Meng’s lawyers. The document was described as “Summary/Notes of phone call between Kerry Swift and Ben Chang”; Swift is a DOJ lawyer.
A spreadsheet said the Justice Department was refusing to turn over the notes because of “witness safety”. Ultimately, however, the government lawyers agreed to turn over the Chang-Swift notes. But they have been withheld from the media and the public.
“It’s clear and fair to say that Chang would be the most important witness” regarding the fate of the electronic serial numbers, said Fenton.
Chang said in his affidavit that he “believes” the FBI requested “identifying information from the electronic devices seized from Ms Meng”. But he also said in the affidavit that “[as] I was never asked for the identifying information by [any] member of the FBI, or any other member of any other United States authorities, this information was never shared”.
Fenton contrasted that denial with an email that Chang sent to an RCMP colleague three days after Meng’s arrest, in which he said an FBI agent had asked him for the phone serial numbers. “Can you please go through your exhibits and acquire those for me,” Chang wrote.
Fenton said Chang’s email account and the contents of his hard drive had been automatically destroyed by the RCMP after his retirement. It was “unacceptable and unexplained negligence” by the force to have failed to determine whether material relevant to Meng’s case was present before the destruction, he said.
In the current phase of extradition hearings, Meng’s lawyers have repeatedly depicted Canadian border and police officers as lying or attempting to mislead the court with their testimony.
Another of Meng’s lawyers, Richard Peck, said on Monday that the credibility and reliability of the testimony of officers involved in Meng’s treatment had been undermined by their failure to take appropriate notes.
Omissions from Canada Border Services Agency officers’ notes included any reference to an airport meeting with the RCMP on the morning of December 1, 2018, to set up Meng’s arrest. “This is astonishing,” said Peck.
Nor, he said, did they note doing internet searches that the officers said in court had been the basis of their national security concerns about Meng; details of the seizure of Meng’s electronic devices and passcodes; and the fact that Meng’s passcodes had been given to police.
The lack of such notes “amounts to an attempt to obscure what really happened to Ms Meng on that day”, said Peck.
Witness by witness, Peck derided the border officers’ evidence – notes by CBSA Superintendent Sanjit Dhillon, who had asked Meng about Huawei’s business, were “a travesty … an inferior imitation of what a notebook should look like”; the testimony of Border Security Officer Sowmith Katragadda was “disingenuous, argumentative and evasive; Border Security Officer Scott Kirkland was “recalcitrant, disputative and, at times, somewhat dramatic” on the stand.
Turning to the RCMP, Peck said Constable Winston Yep had invented the reason why he delayed arresting Meng until long after she disembarked her Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong; Yep had testified this was because of concerns about safety, and not knowing how Meng would react if he tried to apprehend her on the plane.
“Yep made this up…it’s a figment,” said Peck. Meng’s lawyers have repeatedly depicted the delay as being designed to allow the CBSA to conduct a supposedly bogus immigration examination.
The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.
Meng’s long battle against extradition may be nearing the end game; hearings are scheduled to conclude on May 14, after which Holmes must decide whether to free her or approve extradition. But appeals could drag out the process for years, and a final decision on whether to send Meng to the US will rest with Canada’s justice minister.
Meng’s case has infuriated Beijing and threw relations with Ottawa and Washington into disarray. Two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, were arrested by China in the days after Meng’s detention.
Kovrig and Spavor underwent brief trials for espionage, on Monday and Friday respectively. The trials lasted only hours and were held behind closed doors; no details or verdicts have been released. Canada has said they are victims of arbitrary detention and were seized by China in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
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