Canadian officer: no memory of saying Huawei CFO's phone info was sent to FBI

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou had been arrested two years ago. PHOTO: REUTERS

VANCOUVER (REUTERS) - A Canadian police officer who seized the electronic devices of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou during her arrest two years ago told a court he did not recall telling his supervisor that sensitive information about those devices was sent to US authorities, according to court testimony on Tuesday (Nov 24).

Defence lawyer Scott Fenton confronted Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) witness Gurvinder Dhaliwal about a note made by his supervisor, which he said suggested Dhaliwal knew that staff sergeant Ben Chang, one of his colleagues, had sent the serial numbers and SIM card numbers of Meng's devices to the US FBI ahead of a request for evidence.

Dhaliwal said he could not speak to his supervisor's notes, adding he did not "recall telling (his supervisor) that Ben Chang has sent this information to the FBI." Meng, 48, was arrested while on a layover at Vancouver International Airport in December 2018. US prosecutors charged her with bank fraud, accusing her of misleading HSBC Holdings PLC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's business dealings in Iran, allegedly causing the bank to break US sanctions.

Meng has claimed innocence, and her lawyers are trying to prove her civil rights were violated when Canadian border officials questioned her and collected identifying details about her electronic devices without any legal representation. They also allege that Canadian police shared that information with US law enforcement following her arrest.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and RCMP officers have been called to the witness stand to testify on the events surrounding Meng's investigation and subsequent arrest, focusing specifically on alleged illegal coordination between the forces and whether identifying details about Meng's devices were purposely shared with police.

Chang, who has since retired from the RCMP, has refused to testify. Court documents show government prosecutors declined to share notes relating to him due to concerns about witness safety.

When asked if he agreed Meng's serial numbers constituted private information and may require further authorisation to be noted down, Dhaliwal replied, "It did not occur to me at the time."

Meng's lawyers have argued the FBI conspired with the CBSA, the Canadian federal police and others at the time of her arrest to mount a "covert criminal investigation." Earlier on Tuesday, Fenton asked Dhaliwal if he knew Meng was "subject to some FBI surveillance." Dhaliwal replied that it appears, based on records and exhibits, that someone did know about the surveillance.

The defence is also pointing to a delay in Meng's arrest as a civil rights violation, arguing the RCMP wanted to use CBSA's additional powers to investigate Meng without a lawyer present.

Fenton focused on what rights Meng would have been informed of if RCMP arrested her immediately after she exited a plane from Hong Kong rather than waiting until after CBSA's investigation, arguing she would have been informed about the charges against her and her right to legal counsel.

Dhaliwal agreed, adding, "That's a hypothetical." 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.

Witness testimony is set to last until Friday, with the potential for two to three more days scheduled in December.

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

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