VANCOUVER — Lawyers for the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency deny allegations that their officers searched Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s phones and electronic devices after a border official wrote down her passwords.
A joint response filed Monday to Meng’s civil lawsuit says a border officer asked Meng for her phone numbers and passwords in case he was required to search the devices for customs or immigration purposes. It says neither border officials nor RCMP officers examined their contents.
The RCMP and the U.S. Department of Justice never requested or suggested that border officials pursue any particular line of questioning before Meng was presented with an American extradition order, was read her rights and arrested at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, the response states.
“The plaintiff’s allegations that her charter rights were violated, that the defendants acted unlawfully and that she suffered harm are without merit,” it says.
Lawyers for Meng could not be reached Wednesday. A statement from the Chinese telecom giant Huawei said it remains confident that the Canadian judicial system will provide an opportunity for Meng to receive complete exoneration.
None of the allegations in the legal action has been proven in court.
The American government wants Meng to face criminal charges over allegations of breaking sanctions against Iran. The U.S. Department of Justice has laid charges of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction against Huawei and Meng, who is the daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.
Her extradition process in Vancouver has created increasing tensions between Canada and China.
Meng’s civil lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court alleges “serious violations” of her constitutional rights, and accuses officers of detaining and questioning her for three hours before notifying her of her arrest.
The suit alleges that RCMP officers and/or representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice arranged for Canadian border officials to delay serving her with the arrest warrant “under the guise of a routine border check.”
The lawsuit seeks damages for false imprisonment based on multiple alleged failures of government officials to comply with the rule of law upon her detention, search and interrogation at the airport.
The joint response says that although border officers were alerted by RCMP about the arrest warrant, they only examined Meng and her luggage for immigration and customs purposes.
Border officers did not have the authority to immediately execute the extradition warrant themselves and it was appropriate for the RCMP not to interfere in the customs process, it says.
The reply also says a three-hour examination by border officials is not uncommon.
After Meng landed, border officials confiscated two of her cellphones at the request of the RCMP, who asked that they be placed in bags “so that any data could not be remotely deleted,” the court document says.
At no point did any Mountie or representative from the U.S. Department of Justice “request or suggest that the CBSA pursue a particular (or any) line of questioning with the plaintiff in the course of conducting customs and immigration processes.”
Meng had indicated to border officials that she planned to drop off some belongings at her Vancouver home during her layover en route to Mexico. When she entered her declaration at a kiosk, she had been flagged by border services for a secondary examination because of the extradition request, the response says.
Border officials found a laptop computer, a tablet and a USB storage device, which they placed on the counter of the secondary examination area and where they remained, it says.
When RCMP entered the room where Meng was being held, they took control of her belongings, including the electronics and the piece of paper containing her phone passwords.
“The RCMP did not receive any information that the CBSA obtained in the course of the immigration and customs examinations of the plaintiff other than the piece of paper containing the phone numbers and passwords for the phones,” the statement says.
A B.C. Supreme Court hearing to set dates and address additional applications in Meng’s extradition hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Canada’s Justice Department says.
Meng is not expected to attend in person.
Amy Smart, The Canadian Press