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Extradition deadline looms

American authorities are facing a key deadline at the end of the month to formally request the extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou from Canada to the United States.

Friday, a spokesman for Canada's Justice Department said the U.S. had yet to file the required paperwork in the Meng case and stated the Americans have until Jan. 30 to do so. If the U.S. misses the deadline, lawyers with expertise in extradition cases say the door could open for Meng's eventual release.

Canadian police arrested Meng at Vancouver's airport Dec. 1 at the request of American authorities, who are seeking her extradition on fraud allegations. They say she lied to American banks as part of a scheme to get Huawei business around United States sanctions against Iran.

Her arrest has infuriated Beijing and the case is at the centre of an increasingly testy diplomatic dispute between Canada and China. The Chinese government says Meng has done nothing wrong and has demanded her release, warning Canada of severe consequences if it doesn't free her.

Under Canada's extradition law, the U.S. was given 60 days from the date of Meng's arrest to make its formal extradition request.

"The formal request for extradition (including the supporting documents) has not yet been made by the United States," Ian McLeod, a spokesman for Canada's Justice Department, wrote in an email Thursday.

"They have until Jan. 30, 2019 to submit this request. Canada then has a further 30 days to determine whether to issue an authority to proceed."

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to say very much about the Meng case except that it's not affected by the partial shutdown of the federal government there. Thousands of federal workers have been sent home without pay because of a budget stalemate between Congress and President Donald Trump.

"We have no comment other to say that the current operating situation has no impact on our filing preparations," the department's public-affairs office said.

Gary Botting, a Vancouver lawyer with significant experience in extradition cases, said recently appointed federal Justice Minister David Lametti would have an obligation to discharge Meng if the U.S. misses the deadline.

"If it hasn't arrived in the 60 days then every journalist in town should be jumping up and down to insist that Meng get discharged according to the act," Botting said in an interview. "That's what the act says... The minister must discharge them according to the rule."

Meng's case, Botting added, remains in a "political stage" and won't go before the courts — and into the "legal stage" — until Lametti makes the decision to introduce an authority to proceed.

Meng, Huawei's chief financial officer, is out on $10 million bail and is staying at her Vancouver home. She has been ordered to appear in a Vancouver courtroom on Feb. 6 to fix a date for further proceedings.



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