Cybersecurity

Huawei CFO defense will center on President Trump's trade comments

Key Points
  • A defense lawyer for Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei, told an Ottawa judge that it will take time to develop arguments against extradition after "comments by the U.S. president."
  • President Trump said in December he may be willing to influence the case if it were to prove favorable to trade negotiations currently ongoing with China.
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co., leaves her home under the supervision of security in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.
Ben Nelms | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A defense lawyer for Meng Wanzhou, CFO of China tech giant Huawei, told an Ottawa judge on Wednesday that it will take time to develop arguments against extradition in part because of possible political issues and "comments by the U.S. president."

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1, while she was on a 12-hour layover between Hong Kong and Mexico. She is the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei

On Jan. 28, the U.S. Justice Department accused Meng and Huawei of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy in what the Department of Justice alleges was a years-long scheme to deceive international banks over the nature of payments made through a Hong Kong technology supplier.

Chinese officials have indicated they believe the U.S. has political motives in its moves against Huawei, which also include ongoing accusations of spying and a trade secrets theft case now unfolding in Washington.

On Dec. 11, President Donald Trump indicated he would consider intervening in the case if it would be helpful to a trade deal, a departure from the usually bold line between U.S. political negotiations and Justice Department cases. 

The case was adjourned on Wednesday, and a new hearing was scheduled for May 8. The defense said it needed time to prepare for the "highly unusual" case, specifically politics and motivation stemming from Trump's comments. 

"The Department of Justice is empowered to enforce federal law fairly, untainted by political or geopolitical considerations," Richard Matheny, a global trade partner at law firm Goodwin, told CNBC. "The suggestion that the Department could — or should — be used to achieve an objective unrelated to the fair administration of justice erodes public confidence, both domestically and on a global stage. This is understandable and explains why, historically, U.S. presidents have carefully refrained from comments of the sort we see increasingly from the current administration."

The extradition process will likely be lengthy, and Meng's attorneys have indicated they intend to fiercely fight the request. A banker from Thailand, Rakesh Saxena, successfully fought extradition from Canada on embezzlement charges for 13 years, losing his battle in 2009, in one of the country's longest extradition cases.

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Beijing pressures Canada, US to halt legal proceedings of Huawei CFO