HONG KONG – Hong Kong authorities have arrested eight people suspected of helping smuggle a young Chinese passenger onto a flight to Canada wearing a Hollywood-style disguise as an elderly white man.
The man, believed to be in his 20s, sought asylum after arriving in Vancouver on Oct. 29. He is suspected of traveling to Hong Kong with genuine Chinese travel documents, then swapping them for fake papers and donning the remarkably detailed silicone mask to change his appearance before boarding the Air Canada flight.
Canadian authorities the man removed the mask in a washroom mid-flight.
Hong Kong officials arrested five men and three women from Friday to Sunday, Elly Au Yeung, an information officer for the Hong Kong Immigration Department, told The Associated Press on Monday. She said a member of the Hong Kong International Airport ground staff and two former employees were among the arrested suspects.
The eight are suspected smugglers who supplied the passenger with his new travel papers at the Hong Kong airport, Au Yeung said.
It is unclear if they have been charged, but they were arrested on suspicion of swapping boarding passes, selling passports and conspiracy to defraud an airline operator, she said. The suspected smugglers charged clients about 300,000 Chinese yuan ($45,000) each, she said.
A Hollywood-based company, SPFXMasks, later said the mask was one of its models, called The Elder. The company said it was proud of how authentic it products look but never intended them to be misused.
The Chinese man, whose name has been banned from publication, remains in custody in Canada pending confirmation of his identity and a ruling on his request for political asylum. Canadian border officials described him in an internal bulletin as appearing to be in his 20s.