A Canadian border officer who asked Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou about the company’s business dealings in Iran came under questioning about his motivation on Tuesday, amid her legal teams’ suggestion it was part of an evidence-gathering exercise orchestrated by the American FBI.
Canada Border Services Agency Superintendent Sanjit Dhillon had previously told the Supreme Court of British Columbia that he developed concerns Meng might have been involved in espionage after reading about her and Huawei on Wikipedia in the hours before her arrival at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018.
On Tuesday, Dhillon said he spent five to 10 minutes reviewing the Wikipedia article and it “gave rise to suspicion” that Huawei could be involved in subverting the Canadian government and that Meng might be a security risk.
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Under questioning from Canadian government lawyer Diba Majzub, representing US interests in the case, Dhillon said that he knew Meng was facing fraud charges and that his “instincts” then suggested this might have been related to activities in Iran.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is hearing witness testimony in the extradition case. Meng is attempting to avoid being sent to New York to face trial on fraud charges, which she denies.
Dhillon said on Monday that determining whether Meng was admissible to Canada was the sole reason for his questions.
In a written declaration, Dhillon has described asking Meng “if her company sold products in countries that they should not”.
“The subject appeared confused by the question. I rephrased the question and asked the subject if her company sold products or did business in Iran,” Dhillon swore.
Meng replied, “I don’t know.”
“I reminded the subject that she is the CFO of a multibillion dollar company and that it would be hard for me to believe that she wouldn’t know these details about her company,” Dhillon wrote.
“The subject stated that her company does have an office in Iran.”
Meng’s lawyers have depicted Meng’s questioning and the seizure of her electronic devices as evidence of wrongful collusion between Canadian border officers, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI.
Dhillon testified on Tuesday that it was only a week after the examination that he found out another border officer had obtained the passwords to Meng’s devices and passed them on to the RCMP, in breach of Canada’s privacy laws. Dhillon said he personally provided no information from the examination to anyone outside the CBSA.
In cross examination, Meng’s lawyer Mona Duckett pressed Dhillon on why the immigration examination, lasting two hours and 36 minutes, was allowed to proceed, instead of Meng being arrested “immediately” under the terms of her arrest warrant.
“I suggest there is no reason this examination could not have been deferred immediately so that Ms Meng could be arrested,” Duckett said.
Dhillon responded that “no national security exam that I know of would end in three hours … it would take days”.
Said Duckett: “Precisely. Genuine national security examinations take days”.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, is accused of defrauding HSBC by lying about the telecoms company’s business dealings in Iran, thus putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions.
Her treatment since her arrival in Vancouver almost two years ago has infuriated Beijing, upending China’s relations with Canada and the US.
Beijing subsequently arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and accused them of spying. In Canada, their situation is widely seen as hostage-taking.
Meng is under partial house arrest in Vancouver, living in one of her two homes in the city. Her extradition proceedings are expected to last well into next year, but appeals could drag out the process much longer.
Holmes adjourned the hearing until Wednesday morning.
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