The extradition hearing for Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou was disrupted on Thursday when it emerged that a Canadian border officer on the witness box for the past two days had approached a government lawyer who is not part of the case, with questions about her testimony.
The witness, border officer Nicole Goodman, later admitted she had given “incomplete” evidence in her testimony the day before.
The illicit contact, in breach of instructions to Goodman that she not discuss her ongoing testimony with anyone, was announced by John Gibb-Carsley, who is also a Canadian government lawyer, but is representing US interests in the case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
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Gibb-Carsley told Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes he had alerted Meng’s lawyers, as well as the court’s amicus curiae – a lawyer with special clearance who has been tasked with reviewing evidence that Meng and her counsel are not allowed to see for national security reasons.
Goodman, chief of passenger operations for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at Vancouver’s airport when Meng was arrested there two years ago, had approached the uninvolved government lawyer on Wednesday afternoon. She was concerned that some of her testimony, delivered under cross examination by Meng’s lawyer Mona Duckett, was privileged information.
“Whether or not an issue is privileged is not a matter for her [Goodman] to be concerned about,” Gibb-Carsley said. But no information was conveyed to Goodman, he said.
Goodman was brought into the court and told by Holmes that she was to have a “brief chat” about the breach with the amicus, Toronto barrister Anil Kapoor, and his colleague.
The hearing was adjourned for about 70 minutes. When it resumed, Kapoor told Holmes he had made it clear to Goodman she should answer “completely and truthfully to the best of her recollection”, and it was up to counsel to raise objections.
Duckett immediately asked Goodman if any of her testimony on Wednesday had been “incorrect or misleading because you were not being complete or truthful”, in light of her subsequent illicit contact with the uninvolved government lawyer, who was not identified in court.
“Incomplete,” said Goodman.
At this point – as Duckett pressed Goodman about whether it was “incomplete to the point you have misled” – another government lawyer, Diba Majzub, objected and Holmes directed Duckett to temporarily change her line of questioning.
On Wednesday Duckett had suggested that Goodman was tailoring her testimony to match that of other CBSA officers involved in the border examination of Meng on December 1, 2018, in the hours before she was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), acting on a US warrant.
Goodman rejected the suggestion.
But Goodman said it was a “fair assessment” to say she might have confused when she learned various things about the interaction over Meng between the RCMP, CBSA and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Duckett raised the matter again on Thursday, asking if Goodman’s testimony about CBSA colleague Scott Kirkland “going white” with shock, after realising he had lost track of a note with Meng’s phone passwords, was a result of Goodman seeing press reports about Kirkland’s testimony last month.
“At the time, he was distressed,” said Goodman, again rejecting Duckett’s proposition.
Meng’s lawyers have depicted her treatment by the CBSA and RCMP as an abuse of process, and part of a covert evidence-gathering exercise directed by the FBI. She should be released as a result, they say.
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, returns to BC Supreme Court with her husband Liu Xiaozong, following a break from her hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday. Photo: The Canadian Press via AP alt=Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, returns to BC Supreme Court with her husband Liu Xiaozong, following a break from her hearing in Vancouver on Wednesday. Photo: The Canadian Press via AP
The chief financial officer of Huawei, who is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei, underwent a CBSA examination lasting almost three hours, during which she was questioned, her electronic devices seized, and her phone passwords obtained. It was only after the exam that she was told she was being arrested, and offered the opportunity to obtain legal counsel.
Meng’s passwords ended up in the hands of the RCMP, in breach of Canada’s privacy laws.
Meng’s arrest triggered a collapse of China’s relations with Canada and the US. She is accused of defrauding HSBC by lying about Huawei’s business in Iran, putting the bank at risk of breaching US sanctions on the Middle Eastern country. She denies the claim.
Thursday marks the two-year anniversary of China’s detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who Beijing accuses of espionage. Their treatment is regarded by Canada’s government as hostage-taking, in retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
Reports emerged last week that Meng had been negotiating with the US Department of Justice about a deal that would allow her to return home to China, under a deferred prosecution agreement. Such agreements typically require an admission of wrongdoing and some form of cooperation, in exchange for charges being dropped in the future.
The reported negotiations have not been addressed in court.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.