Huawei CFO Slams ‘Extraterritorial’ U.S. Extradition Request
“There has never been a case, to our knowledge, where the court was confronted with a request that was itself contrary to international law,” defense lawyer Gib van Ert told the Supreme Court of British Columbia in a hearing on the U.S. request.
The high-profile proceedings -- at the heart of a dramatic diplomatic crisis between the U.S., China and Canada -- were triggered by the December 2018 arrest at Vancouver’s airport of Meng, the eldest daughter of Huawei’s billionaire founder. U.S. authorities seek the handover of the 49-year-old executive on fraud charges, accusing her of misleading banks into handling transactions for Huawei that violated American trade sanctions.
A pillar of the U.S. case is a meeting between Meng and an HSBC Holding Plc banker that took place at a Hong Kong teahouse in August 2013. According to the U.S. indictment, her PowerPoint misrepresented Huawei’s operations in Iran, causing the bank to put itself at risk of sanctions violations. Meng denies the allegations.
Van Ert argued that because Meng is a Chinese national and the meeting took place in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory, the matter was beyond the reach of U.S. law.
“If any laws were broken that day, that is the concern of China, in whose territory the events occurred,” he said. “For the U.S. to apply its criminal law to Ms. Meng is contrary to the foundational principles of international law.”
The U.S. claims jurisdiction in part because the transactions that HSBC handled for Huawei were cleared through the U.S. dollar system. Prosecutors in the U.S. have frequently brought charges against foreign nationals based on their use of so-called “dollar clearing.”
While extraterritoriality is permitted within narrow limits, van Ert said, the requirements were not met in Meng’s case. Canada would also be in breach of international law by assisting the U.S., he said.
In China, extraterritoriality is often linked to the country’s humiliation at the hands of 19th century imperialist powers. Under the treaties that followed China’s defeat in the Opium Wars, European and U.S. citizens in China were largely exempt from Chinese laws and could only be tried by their own nation’s tribunals.
The hearings on Meng’s extradition request are expected to continue until May. Appeals could lengthen the process significantly. Some Canadian extradition cases have lasted as long as a decade.