Risk & Compliance

Huawei CFO Alleges Illegal Detention in Canada

Legal experts say Meng Wanzhou's suit could be a play to influence the proceedings to extradite her from Canada to face criminal charges in the U.S.
Matthew HellerMarch 4, 2019
Huawei CFO Alleges Illegal Detention in Canada

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has sued Canada over her arrest in December, alleging police illegally searched and questioned her for three hours at Vancouver International Airport before they executed an arrest warrant.

Wanzhou’s claim for violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, filed on Friday, is the latest twist in a legal battle that has further strained U.S.-China relations. The daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of U.S. authorities.

“This case concerns a deliberate and premeditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” Wanzhou alleged in her claim.

U.S. prosecutors are seeking Wanzhou’s extradition on charges that she deceived banks as part of a scheme to hide Huawei’s ownership of a company that did business in Iran. She is currently free on bail and living in Vancouver.

According to Wanzhou’s suit, a Royal Canadian Mountain Police officer obtained an arrest warrant for Meng on Nov. 30, the day before she landed in Vancouver on a stopover between Hong Kong and Mexico.

Meng Wanzhou

But once she arrived in Vancouver, Canadian Border Services Agency officers allegedly delayed her arrest for three hours during which she was “detained, searched and interrogated” under the guise of a customs or immigration examination.

While Canadian customs officials can routinely search and question travelers, Meng’s detention was illegal because an arrest warrant already existed, her suit says.

Legal experts suggested Meng may be seeking to influence the extradition proceedings and a possible future criminal case in the U.S., noting that awards in cases such as the one she filed are generally only in the thousands of dollars.

“On its face, this appears to be part of an overall legal strategy,” Kyla Lee, a Vancouver-based criminal lawyer with Acumen Law Corp., told the Vancouver Star.

If a court rules that Meng’s rights were violated during the course of her arrest, that could have a “significant impact” on how the extradition proceedings play out, Lee said.