A Canadian Border Services Agency official involved in the Meng Wanzhou questioning said that a supervisor told him that the Huawei executive had been flagged by the agency’s national targeting center for national security reasons before his arrest in Vancouver in Vancouver. December 2018.
Witnessing at the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver on Wednesday, border services officer Scott Kirkland did not elaborate on the exact reasons why the chief financial officer was seconded, but said his own open source searches led him to believe that she could be suspected of spying.
“Is she working for a company, a company that is engaged in espionage against Canada or another country?” Kirkland said.
The CBSA official said he saw in news articles that Australia and New Zealand had already banned Huawei equipment at the time of Meng’s arrival from Hong Kong on December 1, 2018. And the UK was considering following the example.
“It was a concern,” said Kirkland. “Of course, some of our partners and allies already had serious concerns, and I assume there is some kind of evidence before they do that.”
‘Concerns’ about possible Charter issues
Kirkland is one of ten police officers who are due to testify over two weeks over the events leading up to and immediately after Meng’s arrest on an extradition warrant to the United States, where she faces charges of fraud and conspiracy.
Meng is accused of lying to an HSBC executive about Huawei’s relationship with a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. Prosecutors say Meng’s alleged lies have put the bank at risk of loss and prosecution for violating the same set of U.S. sanctions through its financial negotiations with the telecommunications giant.
The 48-year-old’s lawyers allege that Meng’s rights were violated on arrival, when the decision was made to have the CBSA question Meng without a lawyer for three hours before his actual arrest.
The testimony of RCMP and CBSA officials will be used at a hearing in February, at which the defense team plans to argue that the case should be closed.
Kirkland admitted he was concerned about the impact of any delay in Meng’s rights at the time a colleague first suggested that the CBSA pull her aside as soon as she left a Hong Kong plane.
“I said that maybe we should just identify and move on to the RCMP right away,” said Kirkland.
“There were concerns of possible Charter [of Rights and Freedoms] issues that are being raised if we go to court … but at the same time, we also have a job to do. “
‘We were shocked’
Kirkland’s testimony started after two and a half days of evidence from the RCMP officer who was charged with arresting Meng.
Const. Winston Yep spent most of his time under strenuous interrogation, but insisted that the decision to get the CBSA to negotiate with Meng first was a matter of jurisdiction and public safety.
Kirkland, who said he participated in an episode of the CBSA reality show Border Security, spent the first hour of his testimony explaining the agency’s internal workings.
He explained that border service officials had their own concerns about Meng’s immigration status and possible crime, distinct from those of the RCMP.
After learning about the impending arrest and concern for national security, Kirkland said he saw the allegations of fraud in the CBSA’s own database and learned through news articles what the content of the allegation was likely to be.
“We were shocked by what was going on,” said Kirkland.
“We had serious concerns and we knew this was going to be a big deal and a big problem.”
‘I would have taken it back’
The CBSA official said he accompanied Meng and a colleague to the secondary inspection area, where she was asked about her activities and her thoughts about why she was put aside.
Kirkland said he asked Meng for his phones and placed them in transparent bags that were provided by the FBI to prevent them from being cleaned remotely.
He said he later asked her for the numbers attached to the devices, as well as the PIN codes, which he wrote on a piece of paper.
He said he then placed the information paper next to his iPad, USB key and other electronic devices.
At a previous hearing, the Crown admitted that these codes were later transmitted by mistake to the RCMP. Kirkland said he realized a few days after his arrest that he no longer had the piece of paper with the codes on it.
“If you had realized at the time that the RCMP was coming out with the passwords, what would you have done?” Asked lawyer Diba Majzub to Kirkland.
“I would have taken it back from them,” replied Kirkland. “They cannot have them … because it is a violation of the Privacy Act.”
Kirkland’s testimony is set to continue on Thursday.
Meng, who was in court, denied the charges against her.