Meng hearing schedule to expand; lawyers ask for ‘referee’ in case

Meng hearing schedule to expand; lawyers ask for ‘referee’ in case

VANCOUVER — Legal arguments at the B.C. Supreme Court in the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou may stretch into next year.

Crown lawyer Robert Frater told the court Wednesday that lawyers for both sides will propose a new schedule later this month that would bring the hearings to a close in early 2021 at the latest, instead of this fall.

The United States wants Canada to extradite Meng over allegations she misrepresented the company’s relationship with Skycom Tech Co., putting HSBC at risk of violating U.S. sanction against Iran, a charge both she and Huawei deny.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes dismissed the first phase of arguments last week by Meng’s lawyers who claimed the case should be thrown out because the U.S. allegations against her wouldn’t be a crime in Canada.

Frater says the Crown will be disclosing new documents to Meng’s lawyers on Friday and the defence may pursue further litigation regarding privileged information.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes agreed to consider appointing a “referee,” whom the defence suggested should be a retired judge, to accelerate access to disclosure information.

Holmes says that while she has experience with independent arbiters in the pre-trial phase of a case, she has never appointed one in a case that already had a dedicated judge.

“I certainly would be willing to consider it. Quite frankly, it’s not something I have done before so I would need to know how the process would work,” Holmes says.

Defence lawyer Scott Fenton says the responsibilities of the referee could be worked out and presented to the court for its review and approval.

The idea would be to offload most of the decisions about which documents or information must be released to the defence and if either side wants to dispute a ruling, that challenge would come to Holmes.

“It can bring tremendous efficiency to this somewhat tedious process of working out privilege claims,” he says.

The court is preparing to hear several other arguments in the case, including whether the way Meng was arrested and detained at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018 constituted an abuse of process.

According to the original schedule, the final legal arguments were to have occurred this fall as long as the extradition proceeding wasn’t thrown out before then.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Meng extradition

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