VANCOUVER (Reuters) -A Canadian border official on Thursday admitted to giving “incomplete” testimony in court the previous day and having breached a judge’s instruction not to discuss the case as witness cross examination in Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s U.S. extradition hearing resumed.
Testimony was delayed for more than an hour on Thursday morning after prosecutors representing the Canadian government revealed that Nicole Goodman, a chief with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at Vancouver’s airport, had reached out to a Canadian Department of Justice employee with a question about attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley told the court that Goodman, who oversaw a staff of 250 at Vancouver International Airport when Meng was arrested, approached the employee – who was not directly attached with the case – on Wednesday with a concern that some of her testimony was privileged.
Meng’s lawyer Mona Duckett asked Goodman if she understood the judge’s direction given earlier on Wednesday not to discuss her testimony.
“I did,” Goodman replied.
Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the British Columbia Supreme Court reminded Goodman to answer fully and truthfully, and she was advised not to concern herself with privilege issues in the future.
Duckett asked Goodman if her “incomplete” testimony misled the court. Goodman said she didn’t know whether it was misleading or not. A prosecutor objected and Holmes advised Duckett to redirect questioning.
Later on Thursday, questioning turned again to the passcodes for Meng’s devices, gathered by CBSA and inadvertently passed to Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers.
On Wednesday Goodman had testified that she had been instructed by her superiors to stop creating records related to the case, as they would likely be used in court.
“If you had not been given this direction to not create, would you have recorded somewhere — in a report, in an email, in something — that ‘we have a problem, there are passcodes that have potentially been released, we need to investigate this?'” Duckett asked.
Goodman said she would have.
“That’s probably the only thing that does weigh on me,” she added, wiping tears from her eyes.
Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested on a U.S. warrant for bank fraud at Vancouver International Airport on Dec. 1, 2018. She is accused of misrepresenting Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s dealings with Iran, putting one of its lenders, HSBC Holdings PLC, at risk of violating United States trade sanctions.
Meng, 48, has denied the charges and mounted a defense, asking that her extradition be thrown out because of abuses of process.
Her lawyers have argued that U.S. and Canadian authorities coordinated ahead of her arrest, using the extended investigative powers of the CBSA to interrogate her without a lawyer present. They further allege that private information collected by the CBSA was inappropriately shared with the FBI.
Prosecutors say the investigation and arrest followed standard procedures and the extradition should move forward.
Goodman also testified that the border agent who admitted to giving the RCMP device passcodes in error was not investigated or disciplined for violating the agency’s information-sharing policy.
Sharing passcodes of Meng’s electronic devices has become a flashpoint in the case, with her lawyers saying that it amounts to violation of her civil rights.
Relations between China and Canada have been strained since Meng’s arrest. China arrested Canadian citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig soon after Meng’s arrest and charged them for espionage.
Thursday marked two years since the two men were detained in China. Canadian officials have said releasing them is their top priority.
(Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver; Additional reporting by Moira Warburton; Editing by Leslie AdlerEditing by Denny Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)