Authorities probe 'unbelievable case of concealment'
In what Canadian border officials have called an "unbelievable case of concealment," a young Asian man used a rubber mask to disguise himself as an elderly white man on an Air Canada flight from Hong Kong to Vancouver.
The man is now being held in detention in Vancouver and is applying for refugee status.
The incident is detailed in a confidential Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) alert obtained by the American news network CNN.
The bulletin, complete with before-and-after photos, describes how the young man boarded Flight AC018 in Hong Kong on Oct. 29 wearing glasses, a brown cardigan sweater, a leather flat cap and a remarkable silicone mask to make him look like an elderly white gentleman.
The alert says border officials believe the young man got onto the plane with nothing more than an Aeroplan card and a boarding pass that belonged to a 55-year-old American man. Neither piece of ID would reflect dates of birth.
"As neither Aeroplan cards nor boarding passes reflect dates of birth, it may not have been difficult for the very elderly looking imposter to pass himself off as a 55-year-old man," the alert reads.
CBSA officials wrote that the young man was observed to be an elderly Caucasian man "who appeared to have young looking hands."
During the flight, he went into the washroom and emerged as "an Asian-looking male who appeared to be in his early 20s."
When the plane landed in Vancouver, Border Service Officers escorted the man off the plane. He then said he wanted to make a claim for refugee status.
Flight crew turned over two pieces of baggage believed to belong to the passenger. One of them contained a "disguise kit" with a mask, leather cap, glasses and brown cardigan.
In a statement emailed to CTV News, the office of Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said the minister was briefed on "the successful interception [of] an individual, attempting to enter Canada under false pretenses."
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae calls the situation "weird."
Rae said the story is hard to believe, and quips that the incident's proximity to Halloween would have airline staff already on the lookout for masks and false beards.
An Air Canada spokesman told CTV News the incident is under investigation.
Angela Mah said all passengers flying to Canada from Hong Kong must undergo rigorous security checks before arriving at its gates, including Chinese government-run passport control.
Mah said there is also a final passport check done at the gate, which all airlines are required to do for flights departing Hong Kong.
The CBSA confirmed that the young man will appear at an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing as per its protocols. It said Transport Canada will probe whether proper identity screening procedures at the airport were followed.
The agency said it did not official release the report or photos and had no plans to do so in the future.
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