VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – A Canadian judge ruled Wednesday the U.S. extradition case against a senior Huawei executive can continue to the next stage, a decision that is expected to further harm relations between China and Canada.
Canada arrested China’s Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huaweiâ€™s founder and chief financial officer of the company, at Vancouverâ€™s airport in late 2018. The U.S. wants her extradited to face fraud charges. Her arrest infuriated Beijing, which sees her case as a political move designed to prevent Chinaâ€™s rise.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said in her decision the allegations against Meng could constitute a crime in Canada and the extradition could therefore proceed.
The U.S. accuses Huawei of using a Hong Kong shell company to sell equipment to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions. It says Meng, 48, committed fraud by misleading the HSBC bank about the companyâ€™s business dealings in Iran.
Mengâ€™s lawyers argued during a hearing in January that the case is really about U.S. sanctions against Iran, not a fraud case. They maintain that since Canada does not have similar sanctions against Iran, no fraud occurred under its laws.
â€œMs. Mengâ€™s approach to the double criminality analysis would seriously limit Canadaâ€™s ability to fulfill its international obligations in the extradition context for fraud and other economic crimes,” Holmes wrote.
Holmes said Canada did not have economic sanctions against Iran at the time but noted the sanctions used by the U.S. â€œwere not fundamentally contrary to Canadian values.”
Her legal team is scheduled to be back in court on June 15 and will argue that Canada Border Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI violated Mengâ€™s rights while collecting evidence before she was actually arrested. Extradition cases typically take years in Canada.
The ruling against Meng, the companyâ€™s chief financial officer, is expected to erode already damaged relations between Beijing and Ottawa.
In apparent retaliation for Mengâ€™s arrest, China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor. China has also placed restrictions on various Canadian exports to China, including canola oil seed. China also handed a death sentence to a convicted Canadian drug smuggler in a sudden retrial.
Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies and some analysts say Chinese companies have flouted international rules and norms amid allegations of technology theft. The company represents Chinaâ€™s progress in becoming a technological power and has been a subject of U.S. security concerns.
Ahead of the decision, Meng posed for photos on the court steps this past weekend, giving a thumbs up sign. She showed up to court on Wednesday wearing a black dress and wearing an ankle bracelet.
Canada’s Justice Department said in a statement that a judge at further hearings will determine whether or not Meng’s alleged conduct provides sufficient evidence of fraud to meet the test for extradition.
â€œAn independent judge will determine whether that test is met. This speaks to the independence of Canadaâ€™s extradition process,â€ the statement said. â€œThe Minister does not personally make any decisions related to an extradition proceeding until and unless the judge commits the person for extradition.”