Huawei CFO's extradition case: Everything you need to know

Key Points
  • Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is scheduled to appear at a court in Vancouver, Canada on Wednesday as she continues to fight against extradition to the U.S.
  • The Wednesday hearing could set out the next steps in the process.
  • A final decision could take several months. 
Meng Wanzhou
Alexander Bibik | Reuters

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is scheduled to appear at a court in Vancouver, Canada on Wednesday as she continues to fight against extradition to the U.S.

The hearing on Wednesday is one step in what legal experts said could be a long process.

Here's everything you need to know.

Why was Meng Wanzhou arrested?

In December, Meng was arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S. She has been under house arrest since.

Huawei and Meng were charged with bank and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud in relation to skirting American sanctions on Iran.

The U.S. alleges that Meng lied to banks about Huawei's relationship with an unofficial subsidiary in Iran called Skycom in order to get banking services.

What is Huawei's response?

Huawei denied the allegations from the U.S.

"The company denies that it or its subsidiary or affiliate have committed any of the asserted violations of U.S. law set forth in each of the indictments, is not aware of any wrongdoing by Ms Meng, and believes the U.S. courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion," Huawei said in a statement in January.

The Chinese tech giant also said that it looked to discuss Meng's arrest with the U.S. Justice Department but that request "was rejected without explanation."

What is Wednesday's hearing about?

A decision on whether Meng will be extradited or not will not happen on Wednesday. Instead, it is likely to be a short affair in which a timetable for the next steps will be decided.

Leo Adler, a Toronto-based criminal lawyer with expertise in extradition cases, said Meng's defense is likely going to ask for "disclosure," which are documents and evidence the prosecution is using against the defendant.

"The defense will probably want more materials. The Crown attorneys, acting on behalf of the United States will probably be fighting that application for disclosure. They invariably do," Adler told CNBC by phone on Wednesday. "I anticipate that there will be a series of applications. They'll schedule them out and we will see what transpires."

What could Meng's lawyers argue?

Over the course of the extradition process, Meng's defense could set out a number of arguments, according to Adler.

Meng is accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. Last year, the U.S. pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. That deal lifted sanctions on Iran but put limits on its nuclear program. But by pulling out, the U.S. restored those sanctions. However, Canada is still part of that deal. Therefore, even if what Meng allegedly did was illegal in the U.S., it may not be in Canada. This could be one argument used by Meng's lawyers.

Separately, Meng's defense has filed a lawsuit against Canadian authorities alleging the Huawei CFO was arrested and detained against her constitutional rights. Meng's lawyers could argue "this is an abuse of process, her rights were abused, if they were, the whole extradition case should be thrown out," Adler said.

Finally, Meng's defense could argue that the case is political in nature. It's taking place against the backdrop of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. On top of that, America has accused Huawei of being a national security threat, alleging its networking equipment could be used for espionage by Beijing. Huawei denies that allegations.

U.S. President Donald Trump has hinted in the past that he could intervene in Meng's case if it helped seal a U.S.-China trade deal.

In a preliminary hearing in the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver in March, one of Meng's lawyers raised concerns about the political nature of the extradition case.

"There are issues about the political character, political motivation, comments by the U.S. president," Richard Peck said.

"She can argue there appears to be a pre-disposition, an anti-Chinese pre-disposition and therefore this will be a witch trial because she is Chinese, because of the claim that Huawei is really part of the Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party and so she would never get a fair trial," Adler told CNBC.

Adler added that many of those arguments could come during a later part of the extradition hearings.

Challenges can prepare my daughter for 'greater things': Huawei CEO
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What's next?

After Wednesday's hearing, another court date will be set. It's a process that could take months — or even years.

There are also a number of appeal avenues which could draw out the final decision.