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'Very hush, hush': Most Law Courts staff learned about Meng Wanzhou release from news reports

‘So crazy we hear the details from media and our schedulers can’t say anything,’ wrote one senior court manager on day of Huawei CFO’s return to China.
Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was released from custody and returned to China on Sept. 24, 2021

Staff at the Law Courts in Vancouver were just as surprised as many around the world when Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s extradition suddenly came to a grinding halt last Sept. 24.

Internal email obtained under freedom of information shows a few managers knew something was afoot. Most had no clue.

At 7 a.m. on the first Friday of autumn, facilities administrator Michael Niven mentioned Reuters had reported Meng reached a deal with U.S. authorities to stay her charges. That would trigger an end of the BC Supreme Court extradition case and allow her return to China.

“So crazy we hear the details from media and our schedulers can’t say anything,” wrote senior manager Karie Tasalloti at 8:37 a.m.

“Interesting we hear the details through the media but received very little information from local judiciary,” said court services operations director Michelle Bennett at 8:48 a.m. “At the end of the day [Sept. 23], Karie indicated that she was advised that Meng may be appearing tomorrow but the details were very hush, hush. You can elaborate Karie if there was more. I bring this to your attention as generally we are a little more in the loop for planning purposes and it also allows us to prepare for any media inquires etc.”

Tasalloti responded with more details: “Late yesterday afternoon [B.C. Sheriff Service Senior Insp.] Steve [Jervis] informed me that scheduling came to them and advised there was a big case possibly being dealt with tomorrow. I believe initially they didn't even want to provide the name, however they did. Steve was told to keep it quiet. However, he started getting calls from Meng's security and also media immediately after hearing the information from scheduling.”

From her downtown Vancouver lawyer’s office, Meng appeared by videoconference before Judge Ann Donnelly in U.S. District Court for Eastern New York to plead not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and wire fraud. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, U.S. authorities no longer sought Meng’s extradition from Canada and Meng admitted to misleading HSBC about a Huawei subsidiary in Iran. That hearing ended by 11:45 a.m.

At 12:11 p.m., Jervis emailed details about what would be the last appearance before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes: “Courtroom 55. Law Courts Inn overflow. We have briefed with sheriff supervisors, Lions Gate security, GuardTeck security and [Court Services Branch]. Anticipated media scrum with Ms. Meng on Nelson plaza post appearance. [censored] We are good with staffing.”

“Meng is arriving soon,” Tasalloti chimed in at 1:43 p.m.

In courtroom 55, just after 2 p.m., Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley called it “the final chapter.” The case was withdrawn and Meng free to leave.

“Matter concluded. Discharged,” Jervis wrote at 2:20 p.m. “Will be heading to plaza for media scrum.”

Jervis’s update, 15 minutes later: “Ms Meng is now off site. Great job done by all involved.”

“Nice! Anything needed re documents or just cancel the docs and she is free to go?” said registry manager Scott Kinloch four minutes later.

“Cancel the docs and she’s free to go,” said clerk Chelsea Jewesson.

“Best news we have had in a long time!” Tasalloti said at 2:52 p.m.

Meng was whisked to Vancouver International Airport by her court-appointed Lions Gate security bodyguards in a convoy of black SUVs. They parked in a secured loading bay next to the Fairmont Hotel, not far from where Meng had been arrested Dec. 1, 2018.

After tearful goodbyes, including a long, emotional embrace with lawyer Tony Paisana, Meng departed on a chartered Air China flight to Shenzhen. The entourage included China’s ambassador to Canada, Cong Peiwu. Wheels-up 4:28 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later announced the Two Michaels, hostages Kovrig and Spavor, were on their way home to Canada.

A hectic, historic day at the Law Courts. In stark contrast to the previous 24 hours, when management juggled issues such as secured parking allotment, public bypassing of COVID-19 screening and a work order to install extra lighting in an unnamed judge’s office.

“It is very dark in her chambers,” said the email from government facilities manager CBRE. “It appears that there isn’t sufficient overhead light. We had a similar complaint from the judge next door [censored] and she had pot lights installed earlier this year.”

“$1000 for pot lights,” Jervis responded. “I have to plead for floor mats.”