A leader of the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, whose arrest caused a serious crisis between China and Canada, is appearing before a Vancouver court on Monday to fight his possible extradition to the United States.
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei and daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, is accused by the American authorities of fraud and of having circumvented the American sanctions against Iran.
Arrested on December 1, 2018 during a stopover in Vancouver, Meng Whanzhou, 47, is on probation and lives in a luxurious residence belonging to him in the peaceful Canadian metropolis.
To escape being referred to US justice, Huawei leader and lawyers must convince a Canadian judge that the charges - based on the US sanctions against Tehran - would not be prosecutable in Canada and are essentially politically motivated .
The founder of Huawei thus estimated in an interview with the Canadian daily newspaper The Globe and Mail that his daughter "was used like a pawn" by Washington in his arm wrestling with the giant of the telecoms. The United States suspects the group of ties to the Chinese government and possibly spying.
Washington accuses Meng Whanzou of lying to HSBC bank about the relationship between Huawei and Skycom, a subsidiary that sold telecom equipment to Iran, which exposed the bank to the risk of violating US sanctions against Tehran.
For her part, she always denied these allegations.
The week of hearings that begins Monday must be devoted to the question of "double jeopardy", namely that in order to be extradited to the United States, Ms. Meng must be prosecuted there for an offense also punishable in Canada.
For the prosecution, this is indeed the case and it justifies the extradition process.
- "Exchange of prisoners" -
"Put simply, there is evidence that it deceived HSBC to induce (the bank) to continue providing financial services to Huawei," said the Canadian Department of Justice in its pitch.
Ms. Meng's lawyers should argue that there is no fraud and that their client cannot be extradited, as a possible violation of the US sanctions against Iran is not a crime in Canada.
His arrest, during a stopover from a flight from Hong Kong to Mexico City, had angered Beijing and immediately opened a crisis between Canada and China.
Several days later, two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, were arrested and charged with spying. Chinese authorities then froze billions of dollars in imports of Canadian agricultural products.
These measures were generally viewed in the West as retaliation for pushing Ottawa to release Ms. Meng. Canadian authorities, for their part, denounced "arbitrary arrests" and said that they respected the independence of the judiciary.
If, during this week's hearings, Canadian justice decides that the alleged offense has no equivalent in Canada, Meng Wanzhou could be released quickly. Otherwise, the extradition process will go to a new stage and, with many possibilities of appeal, could take several more years.
In Canada, several voices, including that of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, were raised to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to release Meng Wanzhou, as part of a sort of "prisoner swap" with Beijing.
However, this would risk legitimizing the "hostage diplomacy" implemented by Beijing, according to several experts interviewed by AFP.
© 2020 AFP