Meng Wanzhou is set to appear in a Vancouver courtroom Wednesday amid a backdrop of multiplying legal and diplomatic confrontations between Canada and China around the arrest of the Huawei executive.
The B.C. Supreme Court proceeding is expected to be fairly short, centred around the timing for an extradition hearing to determine whether Meng should be sent to the U.S. to face allegations she conspired to violate sanctions against Iran.
The U.S. Department of Justice has laid out 13 criminal counts of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction against Huawei and Meng, who is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.
Meng was arrested in December at Vancouver’s airport at the request of U.S. authorities, and Canada announced last week it intended to proceed with the extradition case.
The court appearance will be Meng’s first since that decision, and since Beijing made spying accusations against two Canadians arrested in China in the wake of Meng’s detention.
A throng of international media is expected to pack the downtown Vancouver courtroom in the hope of getting a glimpse of the Huawei chief financial officer, who has been living under house arrest since she was released on $10 million bail in December.
The B.C. Supreme Court’s media accreditation committee has been inundated with requests from reporters around the world for press credentials.
Meng celebrated her 47th birthday last month at her home in Dunbar, an affluent neighbourhood on Vancouver’s west side. She lives there under the 24-hour surveillance of a security team Meng agreed to fund under the terms of her bail.
The property is one of two multimillion-dollar Vancouver homes Meng owns with her husband, a venture capitalist who has moved to the West Coast to be with his wife as she navigates her legal troubles.
U.S. prosecutors accuse Meng of lying to mislead New York bankers in 2013 about Huawei’s relationship with Skycom, a company said to have been a hidden subsidiary of the telecommunications giant.
Skycom allegedly did business with Iran, in violation of international sanctions. By hiding the Huawei connection, the U.S. claims Meng deceived financial institutions into clearing cash connected with those transactions.
Meng’s legal team, which has grown to include some of Canada’s most prominent lawyers, says she did nothing wrong.
Last week, she launched a civil suit against members of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the RCMP and Canada’s attorney general over her detention at the airport, alleging a violation of her rights.
China has repeatedly demanded that Meng be released and has apparently retaliated against Canada in a variety of ways since CBSA officers apprehended Meng as she emerged from a plane arriving from Hong Kong.
Chinese officials have publicly accused Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor of conspiring to steal state secrets.
Kovrig, a former diplomat who works as a Beijing-based analyst, and Spavor, a businessman with connections in North Korea, have been held in custody since early December.
Canadian officials have questioned the timing of their arrests, as well as developments in the case of Canadian Robert Schellenberg, whose 15-year sentence in a drug trafficking case was recently converted to a death sentence.
This week, the rift between the two countries expanded when China revoked a major Winnipeg-based supplier’s registration to export canola seeds.
Richardson International’s vice-president told CBC News he believes the company “has been directly targeted” as part of the larger conflict between Canada and China.
If precedent is anything to go by, Meng’s extradition hearing could drag on for years before coming to a conclusion.
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