A border services officer involved in the Meng Wanzhou extradition case says the discussion that the Canada Border Services Agency and RCMP had over how best to proceed with the high-profile matter involved a “catch-22” (i.e., no-win) scenario.
CBSA officer Scott Kirkland made the comment during his cross-examination at the Huawei executive’s extradition hearing on Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Court heard that the discussion took place before Meng arrived at the Vancouver airport on Dec. 1, 2018 on a flight from Hong Kong.
Meng, the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant, was facing a provisional arrest warrant and was being sought for extradition to the U.S. on banking fraud charges.
Kirkland testified that he believed that for the purposes of abiding by Meng’s charter rights, that the Chinese executive should be intercepted first by CBSA, quickly turned over to the RCMP to be arrested and then brought back before CBSA for an admissibility examination.
His colleague, Sowmith Katragadda, who eventually took the lead role in the CBSA admissibility examination of Meng, wanted to proceed with the exam before handing her over to the RCMP to be arrested.
That was the procedure that was eventually followed, a decision that Meng’s lawyers are claiming led to a violation of her rights due to a three-hour delay and the fact that the warrant had called for the arrest to be done immediately.
But Kirkland, who said he anticipated that the case, which has attracted media coverage from around the world, would end up in court, noted that CBSA had a process to do regardless and they needed to complete their task.
“Because coming into court, if we had not done the process, I’m quite sure that that would be argued the other way around,” Kirkland told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes. “There’s two arguments to be made. It’s a catch-22.”
Under questioning from Meng lawyer Mona Duckett, Kirkland admitted that at the meeting with the RCMP prior to Meng’s flight landing he did not specify his concerns that the delay in having CBSA conduct the examination before the arrest could cause charter of right problems.
“You did not tell people that your proposition was offered so that you would all be acting in compliance with the charter?” said Duckett.
“No, I made no mention of that whatsoever,” said Kirkland. “We were discussing which option, quickly, we should do. That was my presentation. It wasn’t even a presentation. I said we should keep it simple.”
Kirkland said that the decision didn’t involve any serious in-depth conversation because the flight was arriving soon and they had to take action.
In her cross-examination, Duckett also focussed on Kirkland’s statement that there were criminality and national security concerns about Meng, including whether she was involved in espionage.
Kirkland, who had noticed on the Internet that Huawei had been banned in several countries that he believed amounted to a national security concern, agreed that he had made no notes about any national security admissibility concerns.
The border services officer is expected to conclude his testimony Friday. The judge was told by the lawyers that an additional five and possibly up to seven days of hearings may be required to accommodate the 10 witnesses who are scheduled to testify.
In a ruling released on the court’s website on Thursday, the judge agreed to allow Meng’s lawyers to introduce some evidence that would support their claims that the U.S. authorities deliberately misstated or omitted material evidence in the documents they are relying on in seeking the extradition.
The judge also dismissed a bid by the federal Crown to dismiss the claims about the U.S. authorities, one of three branches of Meng’s allegations of abuse of process in the case.
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