Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Meng’s lawyer asks if border officer was gathering evidence for the FBI

Meng is facing extradition to the United States on charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud

The border officer who led Meng Wanzhou’s immigration exam at Vancouver’s airport before her arrest two years ago says he wanted to adjourn the process as quickly as possible but was told to wait.

Sowmith Katragadda began his testimony Wednesday in B.C. Supreme Court as part of an evidentiary hearing in Meng’s extradition case.

One of Katragadda’s superiors also denied during cross-examination that he interjected with questions about Huawei’s activity in the United States and Iran to aid American officials.

“I wanted to conduct my exam efficiently and conclude it as reasonably quickly as I can,” Katragadda testified under questioning by a Crown prosecutor.

Katragadda said although there were possible concerns about serious criminality and national security that could affect Meng’s admissibility to Canada, he understood that completing those exams could take days. He knew the RCMP were prepared to arrest Meng and didn’t want to unduly delay that process, he said.

“We felt it was not appropriate to delay the RCMP process by several days.”

Katragadda said he proceeded with a basic customs and immigration exam, which included examining her luggage and asking questions about her plans in Canada.

If Meng was ultimately extradited, the immigration exam would not be necessary and if she wasn’t, it would resume at that point, he said.

He went into the superintendents’ office and told his superiors he was ready to adjourn the exam. But they indicated they wanted to consult the Canada Border Services Agency’s national security unit first, he said.

The process was delayed because it was difficult to reach someone at the unit on the weekend. After one of Katragadda’s superiors got through to the unit, he verbally shared the questions with Katragadda, court heard.

Meng told Katragadda where she had homes around the world, that she had relinquished her Canadian permanent residency and Chinese passport and only had status in Hong Kong, and that she had no issues with law enforcement anywhere, he said.

Katragadda said he was concerned about the perception that the border agency and the RCMP were working together so he felt it was appropriate for the CBSA to conduct its process independently, before handing Meng over to the Mounties.

“I understood this was a serious case. I understood the likelihood of the whole process being reviewed and I felt we needed to take appropriate measures to ensure the processes were separate and clear,” he said.

During a meeting with the RCMP before Meng’s plane landed, he told them that if they had any questions about information obtained during the border exam, there was a legal and appropriate venue for making such a request.

“It is within my personal normal practice to pre-emptively let a partner agency know, if they did have questions, there are proper avenues to receive those answers. And the proper avenue isn’t through me,” Katragadda said.

Meng is facing extradition to the United States on charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Meng and Huawei deny allegations that she made false statements to HSBC, significantly understating Huawei’s relationship with Iranian affiliate Skycom Tech Co., which put the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Meng’s lawyers plan to argue in February that she was subject to an abuse of process. They are gathering evidence in the evidentiary hearing to support their allegation that Canadian officials gathered evidence to support the criminal case in the U.S. under the guise of a routine border exam.

Court has heard that before the immigration exam was adjourned, one of Katragadda’s superiors, acting Supt. Sanjit Dhillon, interjected with questions about where Huawei does business and specifically whether it does business in the United States or Iran.

Dhillon testified that a Wikipedia article he read before Meng’s plane landed on Dec. 1, 2018, raised concerns about serious criminality and national security that could make her inadmissible to Canada.

He acknowledged under cross-examination that he only asked about the company’s activity in the United States and Iran, not Canada.

“I didn’t ask her specifically about her company doing espionage in Canada. No question I posited was as specific as that,” Dhillon said.

READ MORE: Wikipedia was source of security concern questions for Meng: Border officer

Dhillon was one of two superintendents working that day and he also said he did not recall asking Katragadda to delay adjournment of the exam.

Defence lawyer Mona Duckett posited to Dhillon that he was not questioning Meng to determine her admissibility to Canada, but to advance the interests of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“My proposition to you is that you did not question her about admissibility issues … but you questioned her about the topic of the U.S. warrant, which you knew from the meeting with the police was related to Iran and sanctions,” Duckett said.

Dhillon said the questions were relevant to Meng’s admissibility.

Duckett then suggested that Dhillon never looked at Wikipedia that morning at all but only said so after one of his own superiors asked him where his line of questioning came from.

“This is a creation after the fact,” Duckett said.

“No it is not,” he replied.

Duckett suggested he asked the questions knowing that Meng’s passcodes to her electronics had been obtained, and that the exam would soon be adjourned.

“Your only intent in this matter, officer Dhillon, was to gather evidence that might be of use to the FBI,” Duckett said.

“No,” Dhillon said.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Huawei

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo)
PQB crime report: Thieves pilfer trailer, camera, tools, cigarettes and cleaning supplies

Parksville, Nanoose Bay feature prominently among 226 complaints to Oceanside RCMP

Mary Ellen Campbell, president of the Parksville Museum, visits the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PQBeat: A chat with Parksville Museum president Mary Ellen Campbell

Podcast: Talk includes plans for 2021, dealing with COVID-19 and more

Eaglecrest Golf Club plans to operate as a nine-hole course starting April 1. (Eaglecrest Facebook photo)
Eaglecrest Golf Club in Qualicum Beach still plans to have course layout reduced to 9 holes

Town council continues to negotiate lease for 18-hole operation

A rendering of a proposed housing development located across from the beachfront in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Multi-residential development planned across from Qualicum Beach waterfront

Residents raise variety of concerns about project

Proprietor of Sweet Truck, Morgan Ray, as she hands off her baked goods to a customer. (Photo courtesy of Avrinder Dhillon Photography)
COVID-19: Qualicum Beach baker eyes move back from food truck to bricks and mortar

Storefront offers more stability amid growth in sales: Ray

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Most Read