A Spanish extradition case that sheds light on Canada's forthcoming Huawei decision

By Jerome A. Cohen

A very good report by Raphael Minder in today’s NY Times about a Madrid court decision rejecting the U.S. request to extradite the former Venezuelan intelligence chief, politician and alleged drug runner Hugo Carvajal. The defense claimed that the U.S. request was made for a spurious purpose, using drugs as an excuse to get its hands on the suspect for political purposes involving U.S. policy towards Venezuela.

Minder correctly points out the relevance of this international precedent to the Meng Wanzhou court battle coming up in Vancouver. Meng’s lawyers must be very happy. Of course, the United States may appeal the Madrid decision. The amount of time that a suspect subject to extradition proceedings is restrained is a disturbing aspect of the process. Carvajal was locked up for six months pending this initial decision. Fortunately, the judge has released him from prison pending appeal but subject to remaining in Spain and biweekly reporting to the government. Carvajal, who sounds like a serious drug offender from the U.S. charges, has a great Reuters family photo in the Times that would support a political campaign back home.

Although Ms. Meng has been quite free and comfortable on high bail from the start of the Vancouver legal process, she has not been free to leave Canada to pursue her business and life. She must work via the Internet and other communications facilities, which presumably are monitored. The Canadian process is moving very deliberately and the final extradition decision remains a long way off. If extradited, she faces another long criminal process in the United States unless a plea agreement is negotiated, perhaps as part of a broader Huawei settlement or an even broader US-PRC trade agreement. But don’t hold your breath!

Why people subject to the possibility of US extradition continue to take the chance of passing through countries that have extradition arrangements with the United States remains a mystery to me, even though avoiding all such countries is a significant inhibition on their travels.

Canada, China’s Schellenberg’s retrial and Beijing’s calculating maneuvers

By Jerome A. Cohen
On December 29 a Chinese appellate court ordered a retrial in the drug-smuggling case
 of a Canadian citizen named Schellenberg on the ground that the trial court’s sentence of 15 years of imprisonment was too light.

This is a clever move on the part of the PRC Government. Ostensibly the case has no relation to the Canadian extradition arrest of the chief financial officer,Meng Wanzhou, of the major Chinese technology company Huawei. Yet the court’s action adds significantly to the already great pressure on Canada brought to bear by the PRC’s recent arrest, detention and investigation of two other Canadian nationals for unnamed supposed national security crimes, leaving it open to the PRC to impose the death penalty or the death penalty with a two-year suspension or life imprisonment on Schellenberg at any time that might suit Beijing over the next few months or even years. Absent strong international protest against this obvious further PRC effort to distort its own justice system for political ends, I think there will be no final sentence in the Schellenberg case until the extradition case is resolved.

This drug prosecution was a weird, political case even before the Canadian extradition issue arose, taking the trial court over 32 months to impose sentence after the trial hearing. This usually only happens when there is immense behind the scenes lobbying over the inadequacy of the evidence and/or the diplomatic pressure brought by the foreigner’s government.

That the appellate court’s action in the Schellenberg case, which is unusual in itself, is related to the Canadian case is confirmed by the Chinese propaganda agency’s surprise invitation for some foreign media to attend and publicize the appellate court hearing. That certainly wasn’t done when the case was first tried in 2016 or when the defendant was finally sentenced in November this year, before the Canadian extradition was initiated.