Canadian ambassador: Huawei exec could avoid US extradition

Friday, January 18, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 3

TORONTO (AP) — Canada's ambassador to China said a top Chinese executive has a strong case to avoid extradition to the United States in remarks one of his predecessors said were "mind-boggling.

Ambassador John McCallum told Chinese language media in Markham, Ontario on Tuesday that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has "quite good arguments" including "political involvement by comments from Donald Trump on her case."

Canada arrested the daughter of Huawei's founder at the request of the U.S. on Dec. 1. Meng is wanted on fraud charges that she misled banks about the company's business dealings in Iran.

Trump said last month he might abandon the Meng case in pursuit of a trade deal with Beijing. That led some to suggest the case has been politicized and the U.S. is loosening its commitment to the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

"She has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge," McCallum said in offering legal advice that shocked many in Canada.

McCallum also said Meng can argue against the extra-territorial aspect to her case and the fact that the allegations are related to Iran sanctions, which Canada did not sign onto.

If she is extradited to the U.S., the ambassador said: "That would not be a happy outcome."

"And that would take years before it happens because she would have the right to appeal all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada."

McCallum said the U.S. could make a deal with China in which it would no longer seek her extradition, or a Canadian judge could decide she doesn't have to be extradited.

The case has severely damaged Beijing's relations with Ottawa. China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Meng. Her arrest has also infuriated China's president.

Meng is Huawei's chief financial officer and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei. Huawei has close ties to China's military and is considered one of the country's most successful international enterprises, operating in the high-tech sphere where China hopes to establish dominance.

"What I do know is that President Xi Jinping was very angry about this and so others in the Chinese government have taken the lead from him," McCallum said. "I don't know exactly why. Maybe it's because Huawei is a national flagship company of China. It's not just any company."

David Mulroney, Canada's former ambassador to China, called McCallum's remarks "mind-boggling."

Mulroney said giving advice to a judge is completely inappropriate when the government has been saying that Meng's extradition is up to judicial authorities.

"It raises some troubling questions about whether there is two track messaging going on," he said. "It's beyond me. I can't imagine what his intent was."

Mulroney said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland have to distance themselves from the remarks.

"It's a setback. It undermines that Canada is playing this by the book," he said

Trudeau and Freeland have stressed they can't interfere politically in the case.

"With respect to Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's Chief Financial Officer, Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding. There has been no political involvement in this process. Canada respects its international legal commitments, including by honoring its extradition treaty with the United States," Freeland spokesman Adam Austen said in a statement.

Opposition Conservative lawmaker Erin O'Toole also said McCallum's comments on Meng's legal matters raises questions of political interference.