Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei Technologies arrived in Vancouver, Canada on December 1st, 2018 on a regular flight from Hong Kong. Upon disembarking from the plane, she was ‘welcomed’ by officers of the Canada Border Services Agency while officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were nearby. Instead of informing her about the arrest warrant on request of the U.S., they pretended to conduct a routine check during which she was not only questioned about the case brought forward by the U.S. against her, but also her possessions were confiscated without being informed of her pending arrest. An arrest which according to the court order should have taken place immediately!
The circumstance around her arrest, especially withholding the intend to arrest her, has caused a lot of discussions even before the extradition hearings started. And now that the defence team is questioning the responsible officers and reviewing the available protocols, the questions become louder and very direct. The answers? Questionable, to say the least!
Why does the defence team focus on the arrest?
The decision by Meng Wanzhou’s defence team to challenge the arrest procedures by the Canadian authorities and the involvement of the FBI surprised me at first, to be honest. This is very uncommon for an extradition case. Because in such cases the focus typically lays on questions like will the suspect get a fair trial and does the country applying for extradition have a probable case against the suspect. In this case we could raise these questions and challenge the fairness and probable cause in what appears to be a politically motivated case in a very hostile U.S. – China political environment. Especially after Mr. Trump publicly announced that he would obliviate Huawei of which Meng Wanzhou is the CFO.
The moment the details around the arrest and what appears to be direct involvement of the FBI started to come in, it suddenly starts to make sense to challenge the legalism of the entire process around her arrest. Let us jump back to November 30th, 2018, the day before the arrest. On that day, the Supreme Court of British Columbia authorized the provisional arrest of Meng Wanzhou on request of the U.S. As is common in such cases, a meeting between the Canada Border Services Agency and Royal Canadian Mounted Police took place to plan the arrest.
The responsible officers decided to arrest Meng Wanzhou directly in the plane when it would arrive at the gate in Vancouver in a joined operation between CBSA and RCMP. Nothing unusual about that at first sight until the ongoing hearing of the involved officers and publicly available information reveals that the FBI was already actively involved in this stage of the process and had already provided instructions about items that needed to be obtained. Even the usage of Faraday bags to secure the confiscated electronical devices upon request of the FBI is documented.
RCMP Officer Yep said the U.S. had requested that Meng Wanzhou’s electronic devices be seized and put in Faraday bags, which prevent the wireless transmission of information.
RCMP Officer Yep said that FBI officers in Hong Kong had said Meng Wanzhou was travelling with a female companion.
Reports issued as evidence to the court show the statement ‘The FBI will not be present in an effort to avoid the perception of influence’.
Why the sudden change in plans?
It becomes more unusual and even obscure on the following day, the day that the actual arrest was made. During a meeting less than 2 hours before Meng Wanzhou landed in Vancouver, the entire plan was changed, and ‘coincidently’, there are no real meeting notes for this meeting and especially no documentation about why this change of plans was suddenly made, or who requested this change.
Instead of arresting her directly upon arrival, Meng Wanzhou was detained for ‘routine inspection’. Being detained is what happens when for example authorities restrict your movements while they check your identification. Suspicion is adequate reason to detain a person when the authorities follow the rules, of course. Having the Dutch nationality, it is not uncommon for me to be detained when disembarking from a flight until a sniffer dog has checked my luggage.
RCMP Officer Yep, the first witness in the long-running case, testified that he had no idea who Meng Wanzhou was until being given a warrant the day before her December 1, 2018, arrest.
Does this mean that the arrest warrant was issued without validation? Meng Wanzhou has permanent residency in Vancouver. At the moment of her arrest, she had a Canadian medical services card, a British Columbia identification card and even a social insurance number.
Some of these answers only lead to more questions, and I have some questions of my own. Stay tuned for Part 2, there will be answers!