The overlap of law and politics: Meng Wanzhou’s extradition explained

Meng Wanzhou attends a session of the VTB Capital Investment Forum ‘Russia Calling!’ in Moscow, Russia in October, 2014.

When John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, said this week that Chinese business executive Meng Wanzhou has “quite good arguments on her side” in her fight against extradition to the United States, he ignited a political storm. The Globe and Mail’s Sean Fine set out to explore the overlap between law and politics in a case that has set China and Canada on a collision course.

Is extradition essentially a legal process, as the Government of Canada says, or a political one, as China asserts?

While the process has elements of both, the Supreme Court of Canada has described extradition court hearings as preliminary: The purpose is to “determine a condition precedent to the executive’s power to surrender.” “Extradition is ultimately a decision made by a politician – by the member of cabinet assigned to it,” University of Alberta law professor Joanna Harrington says. “It’s linked to extradition being part of our international relations and the decision of a state to surrender up, to give over, someone who is in their territory to another state. The Europeans have an arrest warrant that goes judge to judge, but that’s based on the sense of mutual trust within the European Union.”

What did Ms. Meng allegedly do that got her in trouble with the United States?

As chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., a Chinese telecommunications company, she allegedly lied to multinational financial institutions with branches in the United States about business dealings in countries such as Iran, Syria and Sudan, according to an RCMP affidavit filed last month in the B.C. Supreme Court. These alleged lies began as early as 2009. The motive, the United States says, was to move money out of these countries. Banks with offices in the United States face criminal liability, under U.S. law, for handling certain transactions involving countries facing sanctions.

What punishment does she face in the United States if found guilty?

The crime of bank fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years.

Why didn’t the United States make the arrest at home and spare Canada the headache with China?

Ms. Meng and other Huawei executives travelled to the United States between 2013 and 2016, but they stopped travelling there when the United States began a criminal investigation of Huawei in 2017, the RCMP affidavit said.

Was Mr. McCallum right that comments from…

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