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CSIS knowledge of multi-hour delay in Meng's arrest 'troubling': lawyers

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VANCOUVER — Lawyers for Meng Wanzhou allege Canada's national spy agency was in on a plan for border officers to detain the Huawei executive for hours before her arrest and was mindful of the case's political implications.

Meng is wanted on fraud charges in the United States, but she and Huawei have both denied the allegations and say the extradition case should be thrown out.

Lawyers for Meng argue her charter rights were violated when she was held and questioned by border officials who seized her electronics and passwords, which were shared with the RCMP before she was notified of her arrest on Dec. 1, 2018, at Vancouver's airport.

In a document filed with the Federal Court, Meng's lawyers say a two-page redacted report shows the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was aware of a planned multi-hour delay because it says her arrest was expected to occur at about 4 p.m. even though her plane landed at 11:30 a.m.

The CSIS report says the RCMP "with likely" assistance from the Canada Border Services Agency would make the arrest. Meng's lawyers argue this is evidence of collusion because it's not part of the border service's mandate to assist the RCMP in gathering evidence.

In an email, CSIS spokesman John Townsend said: "As this matter is before the courts, I'm unable to provide comment on the specifics of the proceedings."

In the document, the defence says the security agency's knowledge that Meng would not be arrested until about 4 p.m. "is troubling, since it is consistent with CSIS knowing that the CBSA would first detain, search and interrogate Ms. Meng upon her arrival ... at 11:30 a.m., and that there would therefore be a multi-hour delay before Ms. Meng's eventual arrest by RCMP."

Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer, is accused of making false statements in 2013 to HSBC, understating Huawei's relationship with Skycom Tech Co. and putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

CSIS received word from the FBI that an arrest warrant had been issued the day before her arrest, the CSIS report says.

Meng's lawyers argue that CSIS was conscious of hiding the involvement of the FBI and mindful of the politically sensitive timing of her arrest.

"The author of the CSIS report also was aware that the arrest of Ms. Meng would be a high-profile political event, saying 'the arrest is likely to send shockwaves around the world,' " the defence document says.

It says the CSIS report was also "preoccupied with when the news of Ms. Meng's arrest might become public," which it describes as "a point of particular interest" because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was dining with U.S. President Donald Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping at a G20 summit on the evening of Dec. 1, 2018.

The CSIS report does not mention the gathering of world leaders in Argentina, however, it does predict consequences of the arrest. It mentions the 2016 extradition of Su Bin to the U.S. on espionage charges and the subsequent arrest of two Canadians who operated a coffee shop in China.

After Meng's arrest, Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested in China in a move widely seen as retaliation.

The CSIS report "makes plain" that not only was CSIS involved in communicating with the FBI and others regarding the planning of Meng's arrest but was conscious of obscuring the FBI's involvement, the defence team alleges.

"The FBI will not be present in an effort to avoid the perception of influence," the CSIS report says.  

Extradition hearings are ongoing in the B.C. Supreme Court after Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes rejected the first set of arguments from Meng's lawyers that the allegations against her wouldn't be considered crimes in Canada.

The defence is now seeking access to the full CSIS file from which the report came.

The document is part of an application to the court for the appointment of a so-called friend of the court to participate in proceedings behind closed doors on secret documents, the disclosure of which the attorney general says would hurt international relations, national defence or national security.

The Federal Court agreed on Wednesday to appoint a lawyer with security clearance to make arguments and review redacted documents provided by the attorney general.

While Anil Kapoor will have access to further confidential information the lawyer cannot share the contents with Meng and her team.

The two-page CSIS report was disclosed after the attorney general determined it was also relevant, but it was redacted based on national security concerns.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 12, 2020.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press




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