The first formal hearing of Huawei’s four-day vice chairman and chief financial officer, Meng Nighting, concluded on January 23 at the British Columbia Superior Court in Vancouver, Canada. The focus of the hearing was to debate whether the U.S. extradition request against Meng was consistent with the principle of “double criminality”, but the judge did not rule in court. The case is now in the spotlight.
What is “double crime”?
This is one of the core principles of Canada’s extradition law. The offence alleged by a suspect in another Country seeking extradition must also be an offence in Canada, which is a prerequisite for extradition. The court’s determination of whether a case is a “double crime” is essentially a use of Canadian law to prove whether the act is a crime. In other words, judges should ensure that the extradition process is enforced by Canadian law, not foreign law.
The purpose of the extradition hearing is to determine whether the case meets the conditions for extradition and does not determine whether Meng is guilty.
What is the point of contention between the prosecution and the defence?
The prosecution alleged that Mr Meng had been suspected of fraud in his business statements made to HSBC in Hong Kong. Fraud in the United States and Canada is illegal.
Meng’s defense team argued that the U.S. filed an extradition request against Meng on the basis of fraud, but the charge was only a “shell” and that the central issue in the case was u.S. sanctions against Iran. If there is no sanction, there will be no follow-up lawsuit. But Canada lifted sanctions on Iran in 2016. The defence therefore held that “double crime” was not valid.
The prosecution also argued that Meng’s “misleading” statements to the bank posed an economic risk to the bank. The defence argued that the conduct did not result in any material loss or risk to the bank’s operations in Canada. And the defense argued that the “fraud” should take place in Canada to apply to the law.
Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post recently revealed that HSBC had known the true state of the company and its business dealings with Iran long before Meng’s business statement. Some Canadian legal sources believe the defense will provide the court with more evidence, including e-mail, to explain the extent to which the bank knew in the past, and even try to overturn the “fraud” charge against Meng.
The trial judge, Heather Holmes, who is under pressure from the complex case, said in court that she had reserved the right to rule, and the case was adjourned. People need to wait for a ruling. The Canadian media predicts that the waiting period could be months. If the judge rules that the “double crime” is not established and releases Meng, she will be able to leave Canada and return home to her family. However, the prosecution will still be able to appeal within 30 days.
On the contrary, if the case is deemed to be consistent with the principle of “double criminality”, the extradition hearing will continue. According to the earlier disclosure of the hearing plan, the prosecution and defense will also debate whether the Canadian law enforcement action when Meng was arrested at Vancouver International Airport, whether the Canadian law enforcement action caused the loss of Meng’s legal rights. The tribunal had decided on 17 January that the prosecution would have to seek the disclosure of more relevant documents relating to the arrest process at the request of the defence by 28 February. In addition, the court also plans to debate the United States to the extradition evidence and the charges are sufficient and appropriate.
During the follow-up extradition hearing, Meng’s side can also appeal. The Attorney-General of Canada may also, on the proper grounds, intervene at any time to suspend extradition proceedings.
It can be seen that the case is still a lot of variables, quite complex. The possibility of a “quick-fire decision” exists, but the chanceof of a “long-term war” is probably greater.