NEW YORK • Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou has begun her legal battle against United States extradition in Vancouver. She has claimed her case is politically motivated, citing comments by the US President.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia on Wednesday was expected to schedule Meng's first extradition hearing, but instead ordered another preliminary appearance on May 8, as her defence argued that there were "serious concerns" about the US' handover request for Meng to face fraud charges in Brooklyn, New York.
"There are concerns about political character, political motivations, comments by the US President," said Mr Richard Peck, one of Meng's defence lawyers. He said several legal matters must be dealt with, including a claim that her arrest was improper, before extradition hearings can proceed.
The proceeding could take years. If Canada follows the letter of its law, Meng will probably be extradited. But she is gearing up for a legal offensive and suing the Canadian government for allegedly trampling her constitutional rights to discredit the case against her.
China has accused Canada of abetting "a political persecution" against its biggest technology firm and has demanded the release of Meng, daughter of billionaire Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei.
US President Donald Trump has muddied the legal waters with conflicting statements on whether he might try to intervene in what is supposed to be an independent law enforcement operation in order to boost a China trade deal.
Meng's defence team has reviewed Article 4 of the US-Canada extradition treaty, which says extradition should not be granted for requests of a political character.
"If they're saying this offence and the extradition have a 'political character', it wouldn't surprise me for them to also argue that Meng isn't going to be treated fairly," said Philadelphia-based lawyer and extradition expert Theodore Simon.
Even if Meng loses the first round and a Canadian judge orders her extradition, she can still appeal against the decision to Canada's Justice Minister, he said.
US prosecutors in New York accuse Meng of fraud, alleging she lied to banks to trick them into processing transactions for Huawei that potentially violated Iran trade sanctions. She faces multiple charges, each of which carries a sentence of up to 30 years in jail.
Arrested on Dec 1 while on a stopover at Vancouver's airport, Meng was released on C$10 million (S$10.1 million) bail. She has been living with her husband and youngest daughter in one of the family's two luxury homes in Vancouver.