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Meng’s border exam was necessary because of national security concern: officer

LE MONDE POST – TORONTO (CANADA)

VANCOUVER — A senior border officer involved in the examination of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport two years ago said he has never seen a customs and immigration exam deferred to allow for a quick arrest. 

Supt. Sanjit Dhillon said he would not have allowed the immediate execution of the provisional arrest warrant by the RCMP in the case because there were outstanding national security and criminality concerns about Meng. 

He was the most senior Canada Border Services Agency officer on duty in the airport’s secondary screening section on Dec. 1, 2018, the day Meng was questioned and arrested. 

Mona Duckett, Meng’s defence lawyer, began cross-examining Dhillon in an evidentiary hearing at B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday. 

“Do you have the ability to defer an examination once a person has been identified?” Duckett asked.

“No, I’ve never done that in my career, I’ve never seen anyone do that in my career,” Dhillon responded.

“I suggest that there is no reason that this examination could not have been deferred immediately so that Ms. Meng could be arrested on the provisional arrest warrant,” Duckett said.

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“We hadn’t even started the examination. There’s a national security concern. I wouldn’t authorize that and I wouldn’t direct anyone to do that,” Dhillon said.

Meng’s lawyers are gathering evidence in support of an argument they will make beginning in February that Canadian officials unlawfully sought to gather evidence against her under the guise of a routine immigration exam. 

Meng is wanted on charges of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud in the United States based on allegations that she and Huawei deny. The United States alleges Meng lied to HSBC, putting the bank at risk of violating sanctions against Iran. 

Dhillon testified that he spent five to 10 minutes reading a Wikipedia page about Huawei before Meng’s plane landed that raised concerns about possible criminality or national security that could affect her admissibility to Canada. 

The Wikipedia entry suggested Huawei products facilitated espionage to the benefit of the Chinese government. It also raised concerns the company had violated economic sanctions against Iran, Dhillon said. 

The RCMP had told him the arrest warrant stemmed from fraud charges in the United States, he said. 

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“Being an officer and trusting my instincts, I was wondering if that was related,” Dhillon said. 

Dhillon was not the lead examining officer but interjected before the exam was complete by asking Meng questions relating to those concerns. 

However, the examination was adjourned shortly after and Meng was handed to the RCMP, who arrested her and read Meng her rights. 

Duckett suggested that since the exam was adjourned before the national security or criminality concerns were adequately addressed, it could have been adjourned immediately as well. 

In the two hours and 36 minutes that Meng spent in secondary screening, Duckett asked what border officials learned to support their concerns. 

“She did answer, reluctantly answer, as to why her products aren’t being sold in the U.S. amid security concerns. And based on her non-verbal behaviour when she was there with me, there’s more to that story that I wasn’t able to explore,” Dhillon said. 

“So did you gain probative information in support of national security?” Duckett asked.

“Not enough, but no national security examination that I know of would end in three hours or be complete in three hours. It would take days,” Dhillon said. 

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“Precisely. Genuine national security exams take days, don’t they?” Duckett asked.

“Yes,” Dhillon said. 

Dhillon told the court earlier in the cross-examination that he believed it was appropriate to adjourn the examination because it was going to take a long time.

Asked what he believed the adjournment meant, he said Meng would return to continue the border agency exam once “the criminality portion of it is completed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 17, 2020. 

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Source: National Newswatch. Continue reading this article at National Newswatch.

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