"Vast" features, connections make Huawei CFO a flight risk, Crown argues



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VANCOUVER – The media flooded the B.C. The Vancouver Supreme Court on Friday morning, as an international scandal, continued to unfold: the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

The ban on the publication of the case was also suspended, ending speculation about why Meng was arrested during the transfer of flights in Vancouver on Dec. 1 at the request of US authorities.

Meng has appeared in court for a bail hearing to determine whether she will remain in custody while the US seeks her extradition from Canada. Meng, wearing a green sweater, appeared relaxed in court, even sharing a laugh with his lawyer.

An injunction from New York authorities contains allegations that Meng knew that Huawei was operating as a company called SkyCom to do business in Iran against US sanctions on the country.

The Crown further argued that Meng showed a pattern of avoiding the United States, suggesting that she suspected an investigation was taking place. Meng was arrested in Vancouver while transferring from his Hong Kong flight to one bound for Mexico, the court said.

Meng may face up to 30 years for each charge, but the number of charges has not been revealed.

Meng's lawyers have argued that she is not a risk of escape because her family's reputation would be undermined if she broke any conditions for a possible release, arguing also that the US claims are not fully detailed.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland said the bail review would likely take weeks. Extradition hearings themselves may take years, depending on whether there are appeals, he said.

"You will have a burden to demonstrate that it is not a flight risk and that it will comply with the process. The way it is done normally is that the person involves, at his own expense, 24 hour security, private guards who monitor them independent, "Kurland said.

"Second, you'll also set up an electronic monitoring and need a place (to stay). So you have to have a residence where all of this is possible. "

Nelson Cunningham, a former US federal prosecutor and special adviser to the Clinton administration, said he anticipates that Meng will remain behind bars until the outcome of his extradition.

"In the systems I know of, someone like that would have a high probability of being in custody while the matter was being tried. They are a risk of flight, and because we know that if she leaves Canada, she will go to China and be beyond the reach of the process, "Cunningham said.

"I would be shocked if she was released on bail."

Meng is listed as vice president and chief financial officer of Huawei and is the daughter of Ren Zhengfei, the founder of the company. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa opposed the arrest and called for Meng's "personal liberty" to be restored.

The Canadian Extradition Act requires that a person be facing charges for a criminal offense in Canada and in the country seeking extradition.

Cunningham suspected Meng's arrest could be seen as a warning against those who defy US sanctions, which cover Iran's shipping, finance and energy sectors.

"Within the Trump administration, there are powerful cross-currents here," he said. "Because they very much want to punish Iran by limiting trade with Iran and punishing companies that violate these sanctions."

But the move could also have repercussions on relations between Canada and China.

"I could imagine that the Chinese government could be putting a lot of pressure on the Canadian government," Cunningham said.

"There is a big disagreement now between the US and its closest allies, I believe that Canada is one of them, about how to interpret which sanctions should be applied against Iran and which sanctions should not be applied."

Meanwhile, Kurland wonders whether Canadian commercial interests in China could be the target of any retaliation.

"Is it riskier (now) for Canadian entrepreneurs to visit China? What if China decides to retaliate with the capture and capture of a senior Canadian executive in China? And now? "Asked Kurland.

Perrin Grauer is a Vancouver reporter who covers community issues and drug policies in Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @perringrauer

Jeremy Nuttall is the principal investigative reporter for StarMetro Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @Nuttallreports

Michael Mui is an investigative reporter from Vancouver. Follow him on Twitter: @ mui24hours

Joanna Chiu is assistant editor-in-chief of StarMetro Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu

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