Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou say it would be in “Canada’s national interests” to drop extradition proceedings against the Huawei chief financial officer.
Meng’s legal team is asking Ottawa to assert Canadian independence from the United States by ending a legal proceeding that could render the executive to the U.S. for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran.
The normally tight-lipped lawyers say they submitted an argument to Justice Minister David Lametti following reports former prime minister Jean Chrétien floated the idea of Ottawa cancelling Meng’s extradition as a way to thaw out hostile relations with China.
“Canada is at a crossroads respecting the United States’ request that Canada extradite Ms. Meng, for conduct that could not be an offence in Canada,” the lawyers argue.
“Over our history, the Canadian government has stood up for Canadian values, including the rule of law, even in circumstances where this has meant a departure from American foreign policy initiatives.”
The statement is signed by the four legal heavyweights preparing Meng’s defence in the lead-up to her B.C. Supreme Court extradition hearing, which is expected to begin next January.
The 47-year-old was arrested at Vancouver International Airport last December on a stop over from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires.
According to an indictment unsealed in January, Meng and Huawei face 13 criminal counts of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction in the U.S. The charges relate to an alleged scheme to circumvent sanctions against Iran through a shadow company in Tehran that prosecutors say was actually controlled by Huawei.
Meng is accused of lying about the relationship — putting U.S. banks at risk of violating sanctions.
The case has thrown Chinese-Canadian economic relations into a tailspin and seen China arrest two Canadians accused of spying and sentence two more to death for alleged drug offences.
The arguments echo submissions Meng’s lawyers have already made in court, but they come after news both of Chretien’s interference and a CBC report that Beijing ignored a personal attempt by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with China’s premier.
The statement comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.
Last week, Iran shot down a U.S. military drone — an action followed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s last minute decision not to carry out a retaliatory strike because it would have killed 150 people.
Meng’s legal team notes that Trump withdrew from an international agreement aimed at limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities and has since sought to introduce increased sanctions on the Islamic republic.
Canada has not followed suit.
They say that Meng would never face a similar prosecution in Canada because “only the U.S. has sanctions laws prohibiting foreign banks entering into U.S. dollar transactions for doing business with foreign companies that sell commercial goods into Iran.”
The argument speaks to the principle of “double criminality” at the heart of extradition law: that a crime in the country seeking extradition should also be considered a crime in Canada.
‘Nothing to do with Canada’
Besides — Meng’s legal team says the lies she is accused of making allegedly took place in Hong Kong in the presence of non-Canadian bankers.
“Canada does not police the conduct of foreign persons in foreign lands that have nothing to do with Canada,” the statement from the lawyers says.
Meng’s lawyers refer back to Canada’s 2002 decision — under then-Prime Minister Chrétien’s leadership — not to join the U.S.-led coalition which invaded Iraq; they say Canada must occasionally depart from American foreign policy.
“Canadian governments have had to make difficult decisions, sometimes at odds with the foreign policy initiatives of its allies, including the United States, in order to assert essential Canadian values of human decency, fairness, tolerance and respect for human rights and the rule of law,” the lawyers say.
Beyond the press release from Meng’s lawyers, the submissions to Lametti have not been made public.
The Department of Justice would not confirm receipt of the letter from Meng’s legal team, but said “Canada is a country that respects the rule of law” in an emailed statement to CBC News.
The statement also cited the provisions of the Extradition Act in dealing with the case.
According to extradition procedure, the minister of justice has an opportunity to weigh in on a case once a decision has been made to commit a person for removal to another country.
Documents obtained by the CBC under Freedom of Information say Trudeau has also been told that there “are no examples of the Minister (of Justice) discharging a case for political or diplomatic reasons.”
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s has rejected the notion of simply cancelling Meng’s extradition at this point.
Meng is currently living under a form of house-arrest in one of two multi-million dollar homes she owns in Vancouver, after being released on $10 million bail.