VANCOUVER (Reuters) – Canadian border agents who interrogated Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou before her arrest collected the passcodes for her electronic devices even though that had not been requested by police, an RCMP supervisor testified on Wednesday.
FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves her home to attend a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada November 23, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Janice Vander Graaf, who oversaw Meng’s 2018 arrest, told an extradition hearing for Meng that a lower-ranking officer informed her that passcodes had been collected by border agents and passed on to police.
Meng’s lawyers have alleged that U.S. and Canadian authorities coordinated ahead of her arrest, and used the extended investigative powers of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to interrogate her without a lawyer present before her arrest, and passing identifying details about her electronic devices to U.S. officials.
Meng, 48, was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States. She is facing charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.
Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting the extradition, arguing the abuses of process she said occurred violated her civil rights and should invalidate it.
Defense lawyer Scott Fenton asked Vander Graaf in court on Wednesday whether she or any fellow officers requested the passcodes from CBSA, to which Vander Graaf said no.
Vander Graaf said she advised the officer, RCMP Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal, to keep the passcodes and explain how the RCMP got them.
“I told him that he couldn’t unseize something he had already seized, so he should log those passcodes and explain how he came into possession of those,” she told the court. “If you have them, you have them.”
Dhaliwal previously testified that he received the passcodes from a border agent shortly after Meng’s arrest.
Vander Graaf also said she was instructed by her superior to call an official with the FBI and give an update on Meng’s arrest status.
Vander Graaf said she left a voicemail with the FBI representative and did “not recall if I actually spoke to him.”
On Tuesday, Vander Graaf said she relayed a suggestion from her superior that officers apprehend Meng on the plane, but said she herself thought that was “overstepping authority.”
Witnesses from the CBSA and RCMP have testified over 2-1/2 weeks on the events surrounding Meng’s detention and arrest. Witness testimony is set to last until Friday, with the potential for two to three more days scheduled in December.
Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing have deteriorated since Meng’s arrest. China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges days later.
Meng’s extradition hearing is expected to wrap up in April 2021.
Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Peter Cooney