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A key witness in the arrest of Huawei’s CFO refuses to testify in a Canadian court

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou leaves the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver Jan.23 (AP pic)

Vancouver: A key witness involved in the arrest of Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou two years ago decided not to testify in Canadian court as part of Meng’s ongoing questioning of witnesses, the court heard Monday.

Meng returned to the Supreme Court of British Columbia on Monday as the US extradition hearing resumed. Her lawyers are struggling to prove Meng’s rights were violated in the events leading up to her arrest. Her lawyers described the refusal of a senior Canadian police officer to testify in court as “disturbing”.

Meng, 48, was arrested in December 2018 at Vancouver International Airport by Canadian police, based on a warrant from the United States. It is facing bank fraud charges for allegedly misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to breach US sanctions.

Meng said she is innocent and is fighting deportation from her house arrest in Vancouver, where she owns a home in one of Canada’s most expensive neighborhoods.

Defense attorney Richard Beck told the court on Monday that one of the key witnesses, Sgt Ben Zhang of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, would not testify after seeking an attorney from a lawyer.

According to court documents, Zhang, now retired, sent Meng’s electronic device details to the FBI. Zhang denied the allegation in an affidavit submitted to the courts.

Beck told the court that Zhang’s refusal to testify was “a matter of some concern,” adding that “there could be any number of consequences for his refusal to testify.”

Monday begins 10 days of testimonials that are a continuation of the hearings that were due to end in early November but have continued for an additional time, necessitating further hearings be scheduled.

Lawyers for both Meng and the Canadian government will question Canadian law enforcement officers and border officials who were involved in the preliminary investigation and arrest Meng.

Defense attorney Mona Duckett will question Canada Border Services Agency supervisor Brice McCray on Monday.

Meng’s lawyers are fighting to refuse her extradition based on alleged violations of the operation, arguing that it constitutes violations of her civil rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In the first week of the hearings, Canadian government prosecutors attempted to demonstrate that Meng’s arrest was made pursuant to the book and that any flaws in due process should not affect the validity of her extradition.

The extradition hearings are set to conclude in April 2021, although the possibility of appeal means the case could drag on for years.

Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing became strained after Meng’s arrest. Shortly after her detention, China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Coffrig on charges of espionage.

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