A senior manager with the Canada Border Services Agency at Vancouver’s airport says the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked for a copy of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s border exam report and her travel history days after her arrest.
Nicole Goodman told the B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday that an FBI attache was “very persistent” in trying to get the information and suggested it was “vital” to Meng’s bail hearing the next day, but she didn’t share it because she wanted to ensure a request was entered through the proper legal channels.
Goodman was the chief of passenger operations in charge of 250 staff at Vancouver’s airport when Meng was arrested two years ago after her border exam. Goodman said she put requests up the CBSA chain to see if headquarters would approve the FBI request or appoint a contact person for the attache.
“I just had concerns that maybe because I wasn’t providing them the information they were seeking that they would try and get it from somewhere else. I had concerns that sometimes if you start shopping around for people that maybe somebody might give the information if they’re not familiar with the case,” Goodman said.
Goodman told the court that she doesn’t know if the information was ever shared with the FBI.
She testified as part of a hearing where Meng’s lawyers are gathering evidence to support an abuse of process claim they will make next year. They allege RCMP and CBSA officials conspired to search and question Meng at the behest of U.S. investigators under the guise of a routine immigration exam.
Meng’s extradition case is ongoing amid media reports that the U.S. Justice Department is discussing a plea deal in her case.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that American prosecutors were discussing a deferred prosecution agreement with Meng that would see her admit to some level of wrongdoing and allow her to leave Canada.
Meng is wanted in the United States on charges of fraud and conspiracy based on allegations that she misrepresented Huawei’s relationship with subsidiary Skycom in a 2013 presentation to HSBC, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.
Meng and Huawei both deny the allegations.
There has been no mention of the talks in court as witness testimony resumed.
The court has previously heard testimony from some of Goodman’s subordinates who screened Meng for nearly three hours before she was informed of her arrest.
Goodman wasn’t at the airport that day, but she told the court she received updates from those involved.
It was typical for CBSA officers to meet with the RCMP before an arrest in order to determine roles and responsibilities. It was also “obvious” to her that CBSA would conduct its exam before the arrest, she said.
“It’s a port of entry, you can’t just walk through the border,” she said.
Goodman did not believe a three-hour exam was lengthy, given that national security concerns had been raised about Meng and Huawei, she said.
She also heard from officers that most of the exam was spent “waiting” because the officers couldn’t reach any national security specialists for a consultation.
Days after the exam, Goodman held a debrief meeting to review how it went.
She raised the issue of information sharing because it has been “drilled” into her over the years that CBSA has to be very cautious when working with other agencies.
“I remember it vividly,” she said.
She was sitting across from Scott Kirkland, a CBSA officer who collected passcodes to Meng’s devices during the exam.
“I just saw he went white and seemed distressed,” she said.
Kirkland has told the court he realized at that meeting that he may have accidentally passed a piece of paper with those passcodes to the RCMP, which was later confirmed by the officer who collected Meng’s electronics.
Goodman told the court that she believes the code sharing was “100 per cent accidental,” based on Kirkland’s reaction and history as an officer.
“He’s a very upstanding officer.”