Lawyer signals that the legal battle with the US over the fate of the Huawei CFO will be a political one

Lisa Duan, visiting from Beijing, holds a pro-Huawei sign outside the bail hearing of Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, at British Columbia Superior Courts following her December 1 arrest in Canada for extradition to the US in Vancouver, British Columbia on December 10, 2018. – A top executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei sought release from Canadian detention on health grounds, as Beijing escalates its protests over her arrest on a US warrant. Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, faces US fraud charges related to alleged sanctions-breaking dealings with Iran, and has been awaiting a Canadian court’s bail decision. JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images
  • A lawyer for Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei’s founder and the company’s CFO, just spoke to the press about her defence.
  • Huawei’s CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou was detained and arrested in Canada on behalf of the US, where she is awaiting extradition.
  • Meng and her father’s company have been accused of bank fraud and violating US sanctions against Iran.
  • From the moment Meng was arrested, China has made its fury plain, outright accusing Canada and the US of political scheming against Huawei and China.
  • This is the first time her legal defence has hinted at taking advantage of the grim, high-stakes political pall hanging over the case.

A lawyer for Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, daughter of one of China’s richest men and CFO of Huawei the telecom company her dad founded, just hinted at her defence strategy. And the Trump administration may be in for a long, difficult, and highly politicized court battle to secure her extradition from Canada.

Richard Peck, the lead counsel for Meng told Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper on Monday that the case was “remarkably” political.

By speaking to the media, Meng’s lawyers have sent the first signals that this is a case that will be played out in public headlines and in political arenas, just as it will in the courts.

Meng’s case has been a lightning rod for the evolving tensions, not only between the US and China on trade, but for Canada, who is caught between two increasingly antagonistic superpowers.

Since Meng’s arrest, two high-profile Canadians have been detained in China. A third Canadian, has been re-tried in a Dalian court for drug smuggling, where the sentence was increased to death.

Following her arrest at the Vancouver airport in December, trilateral relations have been put to the test, Meng’s lawyers may use the tightrope tension to their advantage.

“The political overlay of this case is remarkable,” Peck told the Globe and Mail, referring to his client Meng.

“That’s probably the one thing that sets it apart from any other extradition case I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s got this cloud of politicization hanging over it.”

Why Meng’s lawyers are calling the case politicized.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Professor Wesley Wark at the University of Ottawa suggested that the US government “showed its hand” last week, in its indictments of criminal misconduct on the part of Huawei and its leadership.

Among other charges, the Justice Department accused Meng and Huawei of sidestepping US sanctions on Iran by telling a global bank it had no relationship with Skycom, which the US said is controlled by Huawei. Skycom sold more than $US100 million in banned technologies to Iran.

In another indictment filed in Seattle, Huawei was charged with wire fraud, stealing trade secrets, and obstructing justice.US prosecutors accused the company of stealing robotics technology from carrier T-Mobile.

“Like it or not, this legal conflict has become a high-stakes geopolitical battle for Canada, because of our arrest of executive Meng Wanzhou… Canada-Chinese relations have suffered greatly, and two Canadians have been arbitrarily detained in China in an exercise of ‘hostage diplomacy,'” Wark wrote.

For his own part, in December, the President Donald Trump told Reuters he would gladly intervene in the Justice Department’s case against Meng if it would serve US national security interests or fast track a trade deal with China.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired his ambassador to China John McCallum last week for going off topic when speaking about the case and complaining that the request of the United States had put Canada in jeopardy.

McCallum told Chinese-language media last week that Meng had some “strong arguments” against extradition to the US and that Meng’s extradition “would not be a happy outcome.”

Canadian Justice Minister David Lametti told Reuters his office would not guess at or question Meng’s defence strategy.

“We are committed to a fair process unfolding before the courts and the steps undertaken by the Department of Justice Canada on this case have followed due process, in accordance with the Extradition Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our Treaty with the United States,” a spokeswoman for Canada’s Department of Justice told the newswire.