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Meng Wanzhou hearing schedule to expand; lawyers ask for ‘referee’

A security guard looks on as Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home to go to B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.
A security guard looks on as Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, leaves her home to go to B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.

Legal arguments at the B.C. Supreme Court in the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou may stretch into next year.

Crown lawyer Robert Frater told the court Wednesday that lawyers for both sides will propose a new schedule later this month that would bring the hearings to a close in early 2021 at the latest, instead of this fall.

The Unites States wants Canada to extradite Meng over allegations she misrepresented the company’s relationship with Skycom Tech Co., putting HSBC at risk of violating U.S. sanction against Iran, a charge both she and Huawei deny.

Meng Wanzhou ruling and the potential political fallout
Meng Wanzhou ruling and the potential political fallout

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes dismissed the first phase of arguments last week by Meng’s lawyers who claimed the case should be thrown out because the U.S. allegations against her wouldn’t be a crime in Canada.

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Frater said the Crown will disclose new documents to Meng’s lawyers on Friday and the defence may pursue further litigation on privileged information.

Holmes agreed to consider appointing a “referee,” whom the defence suggested should be a retired judge, to accelerate access to disclosure information.

READ MORE: Huawei hid business operation in Iran after report linked CFO, documents show

While she has experience with independent arbiters in the pre-trial phase of a case, Holmes said, she has never appointed one in a case that already had a dedicated judge.

“I certainly would be willing to consider it. Quite frankly, it’s not something I have done before so I would need to know how the process would work,” she said.

READ MORE: Beijing denounces decision in Meng Wanzhou ruling, widening China-Canada divide

Defence lawyer Scott Fenton said the responsibilities of the referee could be worked out and presented to the court for its review and approval.

The idea would be to offload most of the decisions about which documents or information must be released to the defence and if either side wants to dispute a ruling, that challenge would come to Holmes.

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Huawei executive loses first court battle against extradition to U.S.
Huawei executive loses first court battle against extradition to U.S.

“It can bring tremendous efficiency to this somewhat tedious process of working out privilege claims,” he said.

The court is preparing to hear several other arguments in the case, including whether the way Meng was arrested and detained at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 constituted an abuse of process.

According to the original schedule, the final legal arguments were to have occurred this fall as long as the extradition proceeding wasn’t thrown out before then.