One of the Canada Border Services Agency officers assigned to the Meng Wanzhou extradition case says they were “shocked” after learning they were about to hold her for questioning after she arrived in Canada.
CBSA officer Scott Kirkland made the remark Wednesday as he testified at the Huawei executive’s extradition hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
He told B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes that he was informed early on Dec. 1, 2018, the day Meng arrived at the Vancouver International Airport on a flight from Hong Kong, that RCMP had an arrest warrant that needed to be executed on Meng.
The border services officer said he was aware that Meng, who was being sought for extradition to the United States on banking fraud charges, was wanted in connection with alleged sanctions violations in the U.S.
After doing some Internet checks, he said he discovered that she was the chief financial officer of Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder.
“At that point we realized that this was going to be a high-profile international examination put into our hands,” Kirkland said.
Other checks revealed that Meng had had property in Canada at one point, although it wasn’t clear whether she still had property and that it appeared that she was no longer a permanent resident in Canada, he said.
Asked by federal Crown counsel Diba Majzub as to whether he had any concerns about Meng’s admissibility to Canada, Kirkland said there was a concern about criminality given the fraud charges she faced and also a concern about espionage since Huawei had been banned in several countries.
Kirkland said that he and officer Sowmith Katragadda, who was to take the lead in the CBSA examination of Meng, had a discussion of what they were facing.
“Oh yeah, because we were shocked that this was happening. We had serious concerns. We knew that this was going to be a big deal, it was going to be a huge issue.”
During an ensuing discussion, Katragadda suggested that CBSA officers should meet Meng initially and bring her in for examination before she was turned over to the RCMP and be arrested.
Kirkland said he himself had concerns about possible charter of rights issues if there was a delay and suggested that Meng initially be handed over to the RCMP to be arrested before proceeding to the CBSA examination.
Eventually it was decided that CBSA would conduct an examination of Meng first before turning her over to RCMP, he said.
The RCMP asked CBSA to seize Meng’s electronic devices and place them in a bag that would prevent any data erasure and the CBSA complied with the request, he said.
After Meng’s flight arrived, the CBSA took her in for questioning with Katragadda asking the questions and Kirkland taking notes of the conversation, he said.
Kirkland said Meng told them that she had a residence in Vancouver and was on a Huawei business trip at the time.
Meng’s luggage was examined and her devices seized and the passcodes of the devices obtained during the course of the questioning, he said.
He described Meng’s demeanour as being calm and pleasant.
Eventually, after more than three hours, the examination was adjourned and Meng was turned over to the RCMP.
He said that Meng’s devices were turned over to the Mounties and unbeknownst to him, the passcodes for the devices that he had written down on a piece of paper were also turned over. Kirkland said that if he had known, he would not have turned over the passcodes.
Meng’s lawyers are alleging there was an abuse of process by the authorities and a violation of Meng’s rights during the arrest and are seeking to have the extradition case thrown out.
Kirkland’s cross-examination continues Thursday.
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