A Canadian border officer who dealt with Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport in the hours before her arrest said he made an “embarrassing” and “heart-wrenching” mistake, when his handwritten note with the passwords of Meng’s electronic devices ended up in police hands, breaching privacy laws.
Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer Scott Kirkland denied that he deliberately obtained the passwords on behalf of police, depicting the handover instead as a blunder he only realised he had made a few days later.
But Meng’s lawyers say it was part of a covert plot by the CBSA and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), to gather evidence for the American FBI.
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Kirkland came under intense cross-examination on Friday from the Huawei executive’s lawyer Mona Duckett, as she attempted to prove Meng’s rights were violated in the border process.
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, leaves her home to attend court on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg alt=Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, leaves her home to attend court on Thursday. Photo: Bloomberg
They want Meng’s extradition case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia thrown out as a result. The US wants Meng sent to New York to face trial on fraud charges, which are denied by Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies.
Meng, 48, was arrested at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018, more than three hours after arriving on a flight from Hong Kong.
Kirkland had previously testified that he worried that delaying Meng’s arrest would be challenged in court, and he suggested that she be arrested by the RCMP immediately after she got off the plane.
Instead, he and colleagues conducted a border examination during which they questioned her about Huawei’s activities in Iran and seized her devices and passwords.
Duckett called Kirkland’s note with the passcodes, provided by Meng, the keys to “a private box with a wealth of personal information” on her.
“This piece of paper is instructions for police, isn’t it?” said Duckett.
Canada Border Services Agency officer Scott Kirkland questions Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. Photo: Supreme Court of British Columbia exhibit alt=Canada Border Services Agency officer Scott Kirkland questions Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport on December 1, 2018. Photo: Supreme Court of British Columbia exhibit
Kirkland denied this, maintaining that the passwords were only obtained for the purposes of his immigration exam. But the note was placed on a stack with Meng’s devices, which were handed over to the RCMP when they arrested her.
Providing the passwords to police was a breach of the Privacy Act, Kirkland previously agreed.
He described a postmortem of the border inspection, conducted with CBSA colleagues the next week, when he said he realised he had made a mistake.
“It was an embarrassing moment for me, in that meeting. I, as I am right now, was embarrassed … it was heart-wrenching to realise I had made that mistake,” said Kirkland.
Meng’s treatment has infuriated Beijing, sending China’s relations with Canada and the US into a downward spiral.
Beijing subsequently arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, accusing them of spying. In Canada, their situation is widely seen as hostage-taking.
Meng is under partial house arrest in Vancouver, living in one of her two homes in the city. Her extradition proceedings are expected to last well into next year, but appeals could drag out the process much longer.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.