Canada says leave politics out of Huawei extradition case

·2 min read
Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her Vancouver home on March 1, 2021

A Canadian prosecutor on Thursday urged lawyers for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to "leave the politics to the politicians," after they cited statements by former US president Donald Trump in fighting her extradition to the United States.

Meng's defense team argued this week in the Supreme Court of British Columbia that Trump's remarks 10 days after her 2018 Vancouver arrest -- in which he said he might intervene in her case in exchange for Chinese trade concessions -- "poisoned" her extradition trial.

"Everyone in this courtroom knows that the elephant in the room in this case has always been the geopolitical winds that swirl around it," crown attorney Robert Frater said.

"Yesterday, my friends tried to bring the elephant into this room -- we urge you to focus on the facts and the law and leave the politics to the politicians."

It is up to the country's justice minister, not a judge, to decide whether geopolitical considerations can cancel an extradition procedure, he said.

Huawei is the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer.

Chief financial officer Meng, 49, is accused of having lied to the HSBC investment bank about the company's relationship with subsidiary Skycom, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions against Iran as it continued to clear US dollar transactions for Huawei.

If convicted, she could face more than 30 years in a US prison.

Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei, and the company both deny the charges.

Meng's lawyer Eric Gottardi said Frater had mischaracterized his team's arguments about Trump's remarks.

"We are not arguing the charges are politically motivated," Gottardi replied. "Our position is this: Within 10 days of (Meng) being arrested, the former president's comments resulted in an inappropriate co-opting and politicization of this extradition process."

One of Meng's lawyers on Wednesday said the executive was "a bargaining chip -- a pawn -- in this economic contest between two global superpowers."

Frater urged the court to toss the claims about Trump, saying they are "moot" now that he has left office.

Canada has found itself squeezed between the two world powers as it seeks the release of two of its citizens, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, arrested in apparent retaliation for Meng's detention.

Meng's extradition case is expected to end in mid-May, barring appeals.

str-et/acb/dw