Canadian officer in Huawei CFO's arrest says he did not ask for phone passcodes

Meng Wanzhou is accused of misleading HSBC bank on Huawei's business affairs in Iran. PHOTO: REUTERS

VANCOUVER (REUTERS) - A Canadian police officer involved in the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou two years ago in a US extradition case testified on Monday (Nov 23) he did not plan to obtain her mobile phone passcodes or search her electronic devices.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Constable Gurvinder Dhaliwal told a Canadian court that he and his partner were"discreet" about their contact with Canadian border officials on the eve of Meng's arrest on Dec 1, 2018.

He said they discussed collecting Meng's phone and other electronic devices and putting them in protective bags, but that he did not ask the border agents to get passcodes.

Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) superintendent Sowmith Katragadda had previously testified that he requested Meng's phone and laptop passcodes and she provided them voluntarily.

Meng, 48, is accused of misleading the bank HSBC Holdings PLC on Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's business affairs in Iran, allegedly causing the bank to break US sanctions.

If extradited, Meng will face trial for fraud in the Eastern District of New York.

She denies the charges and is fighting them from under house arrest in Vancouver, arguing the arrest itself was the product of political interference.

Huawei lawyers are seeking evidence to support their case that Meng's rights were violated before her arrest.

In a document submitted to the court last year, CBSA admitted making an "error" in sharing the passcodes with the RCMP.

Constable Dhaliwal said it was his job to secure the devices after the CBSA examination was complete and Meng was in custody.

He said he retrieved the devices along with a piece of paper with passcodes on it.

A border agent handed him the paper, but they did not discuss how the device passcodes were collected.

When asked if he requested the passcodes, Constable Dhaliwal replied,"Absolutely not," adding that he was not concerned about the presence of the piece of paper stating the passcodes.

"I didn't even think about it. I just put it with the phones."

Constable Dhaliwal told the court that days after the arrest, he received an e-mail from RCMP staff sergeant Ben Chang requesting the make, model, and serial numbers, as well as photos of the devices, which Constable Dhaliwal gave to him.

Sgt Chang has declined to appear for testimony.

Court documents showed that the government initially declined to release notes relating to him to Huawei lawyers, citing witness safety.

Constable Dhaliwal testified that he was never asked for passcodes, and did not look at the contents of the devices.

In the afternoon, defence lawyer Scott Fenton pressed Constable Dhaliwal about his travel to the airport on the eve of Meng's arrival at Vancouver International Airport.

Constable Dhaliwal said the main purpose of his trip was to find out whether Meng was on the flight.

Mr Fenton countered by telling Constable Dhaliwal he could have learned whether Meng's plane took off with a "simple Google search".

Meng's lawyers are fighting to get her extradition dismissed on the basis of alleged abuses of process, arguing they constitute violations of her civil rights and that US and Canadian officials coordinated before her arrest.

Officers with the CBSA testified last week that their questioning of Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, followed standard procedures and was separate from any action by law enforcement.

This week's witness testimony is expected to last until Friday, when a series of police witnesses will speak of their role in Meng's arrest.

Diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing have degraded in the wake of Meng's arrest.

China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig on espionage charges days later.

Meng's extradition hearing is set to wrap up in April 2021.

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