8 held for helping disguised man board flight to Canada

08:29, January 11, 2011      

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This undated combination of photos released by the Canada Border Services Agency shows a young man (left) who boarded an Air Canada flight in Hong Kong while disguised as an elderly man (right) and the disguise (center) he was wearing while onboard the flight bound for Canada. AP Photo

Authorities in Hong Kong said on Monday they have arrested eight people in connection with the bizarre case of a Chinese who flew to Canada disguised as an elderly Caucasian male last year.

"We have arrested eight suspects," an immigration department spokeswoman said on Monday.

"They are suspected of being involved in boarding pass swapping, passport selling and conspiracy to defraud the airline operator," she added.

A ground staff employee at Hong Kong's international airport, along with two former airport employees, were among the suspects arrested over the weekend, the spokeswoman said.

Five men and three women have been accused of helping "illegal migrants board Canada-bound flights in at least five cases". They allegedly charged about 300,000 yuan ($45,000) for helping migrants illegally enter Canada between April and October last year, the spokeswoman said.

One of the five cases involves the man who donned a silicone mask to fool immigration officials in October, she added.

The man, who had "young-looking hands", shocked passengers when he was seen emerging from the airplane's washroom as a young Asian male during the flight in October, according to a Canada Border Services Agency report.

The flight crew also found a "disguise kit" with a "silicone-type head-and-neck mask", a brown leather cap, glasses and a thin brown cardigan in baggage believed to belong to him, Canadian media reported.

The man allegedly came from a village in East China's Fujian province and spoke neither English nor any other foreign languages, according to a report by the Hong Kong-based Sing Tao Daily.

The young man - who has not been identified and is believed to be in his twenties - sought asylum after arriving in Vancouver, and has since been detained by Canadian immigration officials.

The immigration department was surprised to know the man, who barely spoke English, managed to board a Canada-bound plane with an Aeroplan card and a boarding pass that belonged to a United States citizen, Sing Tao Daily reported.

They speculated some ground staff may be involved in this secret trade and successfully traced the suspects after months of investigation, the report said.

AFP - China Daily

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