The RCMP officer who took custody of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s electronics on the day of her arrest two years ago says foreign law enforcement never asked him to obtain the passcodes or search the devices.
Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal said Monday American officials asked that Meng’s devices be seized and stored in special bags to prevent them from being erased remotely, which he considered to be a reasonable request.
He said he wasn’t concerned when the Canada Border Services Agency officer handed him a piece of paper with the passcodes written on it after the immigration exam adjourned and she was being arrested by RCMP.
“I didn’t even think about it, I just put them with the phones and I thought, this is her phones and these passcodes belong to her phones and eventually these phones and these belongings would go back to her once the process is complete,” Dhaliwal told the B.C. Supreme Court under examination by Crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley.
Meng was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018, nearly three hours after CBSA officials began questioning her as part of a border exam.
Dhaliwal told the evidence-gathering hearing that he never asked officers from border services to obtain the passcodes or to ask any particular questions during Meng’s immigration exam.
Meng is wanted in the United States on fraud charges based on allegations related to American sanctions against Iran that both she and Chinese tech giant Huawei deny.
Her lawyers are collecting information they hope will support their allegation that Canadian officers improperly gathered evidence at the request of U.S. investigators under the guise of a routine border exam.
For the first time, the court also heard that security codes to at least one of Meng’s homes were also recorded on a piece of paper.
Dhaliwal described a photo to the court that showed the paper on top of boxes she travelled with as having the key to her residences and a “security code” for her house.
Dhaliwal said the paper was passed to him by an RCMP officer who was based at Vancouver’s airport.
“I have no idea where he got it from,” Dhaliwal said, adding he has not been involved in any discussion about those security codes.
Dhaliwal assumed the role of “exhibits officer” in Meng’s case, meaning he was charged with ensuring anything seized from her was documented, safe and secure.
After her arrest, Meng’s case was transferred to the financial integrity branch of the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime unit because it was a “complex” case, he said.
Dhaliwal received a request from Staff Sgt. Ben Chang indicating that the United States was asking for certain information in anticipation of an application through the mutual legal assistance treaty between the two countries, he said.
Dhaliwal was asked to record the electronic serial numbers, makes and models of her electronics, he said.
He did so with help from the RCMP tech unit, he said. But at no point did he ever use the passcodes on the devices, nor was he asked to search the devices, he said.
Later, he was contacted by a senior CBSA officer inquiring about the piece of paper with the phone passcodes, he said.
“She had indicated to me that the codes were given in error to us,” Dhaliwal said.
As the codes were already part of an exhibit, he testified that he told her they were under the court’s authority and he could not return them.