Meng Wanzhou’s lawyer has accused the Canadian police officer who arrested her of lying on the witness stand when he testified that safety considerations guided his decision not to arrest the Huawei executive as soon as she stepped off a flight at Vancouver’s airport.
Richard Peck delivered gruelling cross-examination of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable Winston Yep over three days in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver, attempting to depict Yep’s conduct as part of a covert plot to gather evidence against the Huawei executive on behalf of US authorities.
The hearing is part of an extradition case in which Meng is attempting to defeat a US bid to have her sent to New York to face fraud charges.
On Wednesday morning, Peck concluded his cross-examination by pressing Yep about why he did not arrest Meng on the airport jetway. He rejected the officer’s assertion this decision was partly premised on safety considerations.
“My view is that that is not an honest answer, that safety was never an issue,” said Peck, having spent Monday and Tuesday building up to the accusation.
Peck and his team say Yep’s arrest of Meng was deliberately delayed by more than three hours at Vancouver’s airport after she got off a flight from Hong Kong on December 1, 2018.
They say this was to allow border officers to first question Meng and seize her electronic devices at the direction of the US authorities and in violation of her rights because she was not told she was about to be arrested, nor given the opportunity to have a lawyer present.
The delay also breached the terms of a warrant which said she should be arrested “immediately”, they say, and because of the violation of Meng’s rights the US extradition bid should be thrown out. Presiding over the Canadian case is Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes, who will make the ruling.
Peck asked on Wednesday if the delay in the arrest was deliberately intended to deny Meng her rights.
“No, it was not intentional,” Yep said. He added: “I don’t think the three-hour delay was unreasonable.”
Yep, who became the first witness in Meng’s extradition battle when he took to the witness box on Monday, had said the arrest was a normal operation. He earlier testified that he allowed Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers to initially intercept and question Meng – instead of himself arresting her on the plane or as soon as she stepped off it – because the airport was CBSA jurisdiction.
Yep said Meng might have “put up a fight” on the plane, an assertion Peck repeatedly questioned. Peck raised an email between Yep’s RCMP superiors the day before the operation, that said it carried “no officer safety concerns”.
On Monday, Peck asked Yep if the safety considerations “just popped into your head” on the witness box.
Meng, 48, is Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer and the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei. She is accused by the US of defrauding HSBC bank by lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran, putting the bank at risk of violating US sanctions.
eck’s questioning of Yep sketched out the 24 hours leading up Meng’s arrest.
On Tuesday, Peck quizzed Yep about an affidavit he swore the day before the operation, in which he said Meng “appears to have no ties to Canada”, and this supported the need for a judge to issue a warrant to prevent her escaping the country.
Yet Meng owned two houses in Vancouver, something Yep agreed he became aware of a few hours later, and was discussed with CBSA officers at a pre-arrest meeting Yep attended. Meng also held Canadian residency at one point, and Yep knew CBSA officers wanted to determine her immigration status.
Peck asked why these inconsistencies with Yep’s affidavit – prepared by Department of Justice (DOJ) officials for him to sign – did not set off “alarm bells” in his head. Yep said “it didn’t cross my mind at the time,” calling it “an error on my part for not catching that”.
In his initial questioning by crown counsel John Gibb-Carsley, representing US interests in the case, Yep said the only reason it fell on him to arrest Meng – a momentous event that sent China’s relations with the US and Canada into a two-year downward spiral – was because the RCMP was short-staffed that Friday afternoon. He happened to be heading to the DOJ office on another task when the pre-arrest affidavit needed to be signed.
Beijing was infuriated by Meng’s treatment and subsequently arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, accusing them of spying. In Canada, their situation is widely seen as hostage-taking.
The border officers who questioned Meng and seized her devices before handing her off to Yep are also expected to be called as witnesses this week.
Meng is under partial house arrest in Vancouver, living in one of her two homes in the city. Her extradition proceedings are scheduled to last well into next year, but appeals could drag out the process for much longer.
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.