The first stage of an extradition hearing for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is underway in Vancouver on Monday.
The 47-year-old telecom executive was greeted by supporters and a fleet of media as she arrived at B.C. Supreme Court.
Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 at the request of the U.S., which is seeking her extradition on fraud charges.
Meng is accused of lying to HSBC about a Huawei subsidiary’s business in Iran, putting the financial institution at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against the country.
Monday marks the first phase of the hearing, which will determine if those U.S. allegations would also be a crime in Canada.
If the judge rules there is “double criminality,” the hearing will proceed to a second phase.
The U.S. government is accusing Meng of defrauding HSBC in order for Huawei to conduct business in Iran. Lawyers for the attorney general are arguing the fraud would be a crime in Canada and the extradition should proceed.
Meng’s defence team is hinging its case on U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran. Noting that Canada has no similar sanctions, Meng’s lawyers say what she is accused of doing would not be considered criminal in Canada.
“Would we be here today in the absence of U.S. sanctions law?” lawyer Richard Peck asked. “The answer is no.”
Citing a long list of Supreme Court decisions, Peck argued there is no reason to surrender a person whose actions would not constitute a crime in Canada.
Canada previously had sanctions on Iran until 2016, including restrictions on financial services. Meng is alleged to have made her false presentation to HSBC in 2013.
Defence argued the relevant date is not when the alleged crime occurred, but when Canada’s attorney general gave the authority to proceed with the extradition hearing, which in this case is February 2019.
Allegations made by the U.S. through Canadian authorities suggest HSBC processed more than $100 million in cash transactions from Huawei subsidiary Skycom between 2010 and 2014, in direct violation of Iranian sanctions.
China’s foreign ministry on Monday accused the United States and Canada of violating Meng’s rights and called for her release.
“It is completely a serious political incident,” said a ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang. He urged Canada to “correct mistakes with concrete actions, release Ms. Meng Wanzhou and let her return safely as soon as possible.”
Meng, who is free on bail and living in one of her two multi-million-dollar homes in Vancouver, denies the allegations.
Protesters rallied outside of Meng’s house in Vancouver calling on China to release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians who have been detained in China since shortly after Meng was detained in Canada.
Meng denies the U.S. allegations. Her defence team says comments by President Donald Trump suggest the case against her is politically motivated.
“As this case is before the court, it is inappropriate for us to give specific comments on the ongoing legal proceeding,” Huawei spokesperson Benjamin Howes said in a statement on Monday.
“We trust in Canada’s judiciary system, which will prove Ms. Meng’s innocence. Huawei stands with Ms. Meng in her pursuit of justice and freedom.”
— With files from Emily Lazatin and The Canadian Press