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UPDATE 1-Border officers gave ‘vastly conflicting’ testimony in Huawei CFO extradition, lawyers allege

(Updates with details from afternoon hearing)

VANCOUVER, March 18 (Reuters) - A lawyer for Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou told a Canadian court on Thursday that border agents who questioned her at the Vancouver airport were “untruthful” when they said they handed over Meng’s phone passcodes to police by accident.

Border officers also gave “vastly conflicting versions of key events,” Meng’s legal team argued as her extradition hearing entered the last phase of arguments leading to a final hearing.

Meng, who was arrested at Vancouver International Airport in 2018 on a U.S. warrant for bank fraud, is accused of misleading HSBC about Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s business dealings in Iran, causing the bank to break with U.S. sanctions.

Meng, 49, and Huawei maintain she is innocent. For more than two years, she has been fighting extradition to the United States while under house arrest in Vancouver.

Diplomatic relations between China and Canada have soured over the issue. China detained two Canadians on suspicion of espionage soon after Meng’s arrest and they face trial this week and next, ramping up the tension between the two countries.

Defense lawyer Tony Paisana told a British Columbia Supreme Court judge the agents abused their statutory powers, and would not have acted as they did if they were conducting a “bona fide” border exam.

He asked why the agents took Meng’s electronic devices but did not search them, and why they asked for passcodes when they knew they would not use them.

Paisana said border officers who testified about accidentally giving passcodes over to police were “untruthful” under oath. “These officers deliberately tried to deceive you,” he told the judge. The evidence suggested that the information was collected for the FBI, Paisana said.

Meng’s legal team has demanded her extradition request be denied, arguing that abuses of process took place during her arrest and that her rights were violated.

Canadian prosecutors have said Meng’s arrest followed established procedures.

Defense attorney Mona Duckett said border officers who testified at Meng’s extradition hearings last year gave conflicting versions of important events. She quoted testimony from multiple border agents who were asked what authority allowed them to take phones and passcodes. Although each gave different answers, she said none of the agents could articulate what reasonable grounds they had.

“I say the answer is because there are none,” she said.

The Canada Border Services Agency was not immediately available for comment.

On Wednesday, Paisana said Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers who appeared as witnesses last year provided “less than truthful” testimony when confronted with alleged abuses of process.

The RCMP declined to comment.

Meng’s extradition hearing is expected to wrap up in May, although a decision could be appealed, which would delay the final outcome.

Reporting by Sarah Berman in Vancouver; Editing by Denny Thomas, Sonya Hepinstall and Peter Cooney

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