Wikipedia was a source of security questions for Meng: border officer

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VANCOUVER – A border official who screened Meng Wanzhou at the Vancouver airport before his arrest said the Huawei executive was “calm and open” until he turned to the security issues surrounding the products of the company. Sanjit Dhillon was acting superintendent at the Canada Border Services Agency in December 2018 when Meng was held for three hours and then arrested by the RCMP.

Meng faces extradition to the United States for fraud. Meng and Huawei deny allegations that she lied to HSBC, putting the bank at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“At first she was calm and open. When I started asking questions specifically about security concerns about her business, she was a bit closed off, ”Dhillon said.

Dhillon testified at an evidence hearing Monday in the British Columbia Supreme Court, where Meng’s attorneys attempt to gather evidence to support their argument that she was the subject of an abuse of process. Her legal team alleges that the RCMP and border officials coordinated their actions to obtain evidence against her prior to her arrest.

Dhillon was not the border officer leading the review, but as a supervisor he said he stepped in sometimes when he felt he could help.

Court documents have previously shown that he questioned Meng about Huawei’s activity in Iran.

Before Meng’s plane landed, Dhillon said she was flagged in an internal database for an outstanding warrant in her name.

Anticipating his arrival, Dhillon said he found a Wikipedia page on Huawei stating that the company was not operating in the United States for security reasons and that Huawei was suspected of violating US economic sanctions with Iran.

Dhillon said he intervened when Meng asked why she was being held for so long.

“I stepped in and asked Ms. Meng specific questions about her business and also what I found during the open source query,” Dhillon said. “I wanted to deepen the examination. ”

The purpose of the customs and immigration review was to determine Meng’s admissibility to Canada, which could be affected by possible criminality or national security concerns, he said.

Dhillon asked Meng what she had done. She said she was the chief financial officer of a global telecommunications company, he told the court.

He asked where the company was doing business. When she listed countries without including the United States, he asked her why.

“She said we don’t sell our products in the United States,” Dhillon said.

He asked if there was a reason why and Meng replied that she didn’t know. Dhillon said he then reframe the question.

“Since she is the CFO of this telecommunications company, I guess she would know why her company is unable to sell its products in one of the most lucrative markets in the world,” said Dhillon.

“She was calm. She didn’t respond right away. And finally she said there was a security issue with the US government product. ”

He testified that Meng did not say what those concerns were.

Dhillon said his questions were based on his own research online and no one asked him to ask him questions.

Dhillon is the fourth witness to testify at the evidence hearings. Meng’s legal team will argue next year that Canadian officials gathered evidence under the pretext of a routine immigration exam and took intentionally poor notes.

Surint. Bryce McRae, a colleague of Dhillon’s, said Monday that at no time was he ordered to avoid taking notes.

McRae also denied an allegation by Meng’s defense attorney Mona Duckett that he “fabricated” some of his testimony regarding instructions he received from the agency’s national security unit. border.

McRae said he called the unit for advice and was given a series of questions to ask Meng, including where his residences are in the world.

He shared the questions orally with at least one of the border officials in the examination room, but did not write them down, he said.

“I suggest that when you spoke to her, she informed you that you should stop this review,” Duckett said.

“I don’t remember ever having received this information,” McRae replied.

Duckett pointed to McRae’s notes, which recorded calls to the unit as having taken place after an officer questioned Meng about his homes.

“I suggest… your testimony on the advice you received is pure fabrication,” Duckett said.

McRae to nié the suggestion.

He told the court that the agents under his supervision would have asked Meng their own questions and not relied solely on the advice of the national security unit.

Since Meng’s arrest, Canada-China relations have eroded, and China’s arrest of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor is widely viewed as retaliation for his detention.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 16, 2020.

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