The first hearing of a leader of the Chinese giant Huawei, whose arrest caused a serious crisis between China and Canada, began Monday in Vancouver court where her lawyers immediately challenged 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 sanctions of Washington against Iran.
On Monday morning, Ms. Meng's lawyers got into the heart of the subject of "double jeopardy" which will dominate the proceedings, which are scheduled to last four or five days: in order to be extradited to the United States, Ms. Meng must be prosecuted there for an offense also punishable in Canada.
Defense lawyers believe that the charges against Ms. Meng in the United States have no equivalent in Canada, which had not taken the same sanctions against Iran at the time of the facts.
"Would we be here in the absence of US sanctions?" Asked one of the defense lawyers Richard Peck, before estimating: "the answer is no".
"The United States has launched (against Ms. Meng) allegations of fraud against a bank. It is a device," he said, noting that Canada is actually being asked to "enforce US sanctions ".
The British Columbia Supreme Court hearing began shortly after 10:00 a.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT) under the direction of Justice Heather Holmes, after the arrival of Ms. Meng, all smiles and ankle box.
"Free Ms. Meng", "fair justice", could be read on the signs held up by some demonstrators, who refused to speak to the press.
- "Used as a pawn"? -
Arrested on December 1, 2018 during a stopover in Vancouver, Meng Wanzhou, 47, is on probation and lives in a luxurious residence belonging to him in the peaceful Canadian metropolis.
To escape being referred to the US courts, the Huawei executive and her lawyers must convince that the charges - based on the American sanctions against Tehran - would not be liable to prosecution in Canada and are essentially motivated by political considerations.
A line of defense supported by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which said on Monday that the extradition process was a "serious political incident", and urged Ottawa to release it.
The founder of Huawei 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 Wanzhou 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.
The applicant has always denied these allegations.
The week of hearings must be devoted to the question of "double criminality": 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.
- Arbitrary arrests -
The arrest of Ms. Meng, during a stopover from a flight from Hong Kong to Mexico City, had angered Beijing and immediately opened a diplomatic crisis.
A few days later, two Canadians, ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, were arrested by China and charged with spying. Chinese authorities then froze billions of dollars in imports of Canadian agricultural products.
These measures have generally been viewed in the West as retaliation for pushing Ottawa to release Ms. Meng. Canadian authorities have denounced "arbitrary arrests", claiming to respect, for their part, 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.
© 2020 AFP