By Sarah Berman
VANCOUVER (Reuters) – A police officer overseeing enforcement at the Vancouver airport testified in court on Thursday that he had concerns about a plan by Canadian federal police to arrest Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on the plane she arrived on two years ago.
Meng’s nearly three-hour interrogation by Canadian border agents prior to her December 2018 arrest by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on a U.S. warrant has become a flash point in her ongoing extradition hearing.
Her lawyers have alleged that Canadian and U.S. authorities coordinated to use the additional investigative powers of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to interrogate Meng without a lawyer present, and extract identifying details about her electronic devices to pass to U.S. authorities.
They claim that abuses of process occurred in the run-up to her arrest which should invalidate the extradition.
But Ross Lundie, an officer with Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), defended the move not to arrest her on the plane.
“We don’t go on planes and arrest people unless there’s an immediate safety risk,” Lundie testified.
Meng, 48, is facing charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting the extradition from under house arrest in Vancouver.
Lundie told the officers planning to nab Meng on the plane they would need assistance from the RCMP’s airport detachment and the border agency.
CBSA officials previously testified that the interview was standard procedure and they noted down Meng’s device passcodes as a matter of process, but then passed them on to RCMP in error.
Prosecutors have argued that Meng’s investigation and arrest was done by the book.
Earlier on Thursday one of Meng’s lawyers claimed that a Canadian police supervisor in charge of Meng’s arrest deviated from her initial court submissions about key conversations to protect federal police officials.
Meng’s defense lawyer Scott Fenton pointed to a sworn statement from 2019 where RCMP Sergeant Janice Vander Graaf said she did not have a recollection of events related to serial numbers of Meng’s electronic devices, beyond what was recorded in her notes.
On Wednesday, Vander Graaf testified recalling that RCMP constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal mentioned the serial numbers from Meng’s devices were sent to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Fenton accused Vander Graaf of covering for lower-ranking officers when she mentioned the conversation about the handling of serial numbers of Meng’s devices by police in court but not in her affidavit.
He asked Vander Graaf to explain the difference in her memory. “My affidavit was true at the time,” she said. “I have a recollection now.”
“I suggest you tailored your evidence to protect the RCMP,” Fenton charged.
“That is absolutely not true,” Vander Graaf replied.
Witnesses from the CBSA and RCMP have testified over almost three weeks on the events surrounding Meng’s detention and arrest. Witness testimony is set to last until Friday, with the potential for two to three more days scheduled in December.
(Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver; additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Stephen Coates)