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

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

Chilliwack School District school bus outside Sardis elementary on June 11, 2014. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
COVID-19 exposures on three school buses in Chilliwack

Exposure dates range from Nov. 13 to 19, according to letters sent out by Fraser Health

File photo
Outdoor recreation generates close to $1 billion annually in Fraser Valley: report

Camping, hiking and sportfishing generate the most spending, report finds

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

The Santa Photos event will not continue at Highstreet Shopping Centre after Fraser Health asked organizers to suspend the event after new restrictions. (Highstreet photo)
Santa Photos at Abbotsford’s Highstreet Shopping Centre event suspended

Fraser Health Authority asked Highstreet to suspend event following new restrictions

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

Elissa McLaren broke her left elbow in the Sept. 20, 2020 collision. (Submitted)
Surviving victims of fatal crash in Fraser Valley asking for help leading up to Christmas

‘This accident has taken a larger toll financially, mentally and physically than originally intended’

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).
BC Court of Appeal left to walk tightrope of freedom of expression in Neufeld-Hansman case

Is defamation lawsuit aimed at stifling free expression or does the defamation hinder free speech?

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read