Defense probes Canada border official on law enforcement role in Huawei CFO's U.S. extradition case

FILE PHOTO: Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou leaves a court hearing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada November 17, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Lawyers for Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou probed a Canadian border official in court on Wednesday about his agency's communications with U.S. and Canadian authorities ahead of Meng's arrest two years ago.

Defense attorney Mona Duckett questioned Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer Sanjit Dhillon about whether he purposely concealed from Meng that there was an arrest warrant out for her from the U.S. when he questioned her before she was arrested, "as the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) instructed."

"No, the RCMP didn’t instruct me to do anything that day," Dhillon said, adding that "I didn’t have a strategy, I was having a conversation with her" during his interrogation of Meng.

Hearings in British Columbia Supreme Court this week and next week consist of witness testimony, from officials in the CBSA and RCMP, regarding their conduct during Meng's initial investigation and arrest.

Huawei's legal team has argued that U.S. and Canadian authorities illegally coordinated ahead of Meng's arrest at Vancouver International Airport on a warrant from the United States, invalidating her extradition.

Meng, 48, was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport by Canadian police while on a layover bound for Mexico. She is facing charges of bank fraud for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break U.S. sanctions.

Meng has said she is innocent and is fighting the extradition from under house arrest in Vancouver, where she owns a home in an upscale neighborhood in the Pacific coastal city.

Dhillon also pushed back on Duckett's assertion that he made sure identifying details about Meng's electronic devices were gathered at the request of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On Tuesday Dhillon told the court he had received an email from an FBI official with a request for information relating to the CBSA's investigation of Meng before her arrest, but said he did not act on the request.

Meng's arrest has soured diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing. Soon after her detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges. The two men are still in detention.

Meng's case is set to wrap up in April 2021, although the potential for appeals by either side mean the case could drag on for years.

(Reporting by Sarah Berman; Writing by Moira Warburton in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Chizu Nomiyama)

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