The Daily Telegraph

Canadian accused of spying in China blames inmate for arrest

- By Tony Diver

ONE of two Canadians jailed in China for nearly three years on espionage charges is suing the state after claiming his fellow inmate really was a spy.

Michael Spavor, who was the director of a firm that promotes tourism in North Korea, is seeking a multimilli­on-dollar settlement from the Canadian government over allegation­s that the other jailed man, Michael Kovrig, was linked to its intelligen­ce services.

He claims he had not realised that Mr Kovrig, a former diplomat in Canada’s foreign service, was a spy and that informatio­n he passed to him on North Korea would end up in the hands of the Five Eyes intelligen­ce network.

Both men, known as the “Two Michaels”, were subjected to interrogat­ions for up to eight hours a day during their imprisonme­nt, in what is thought to be a retaliatio­n for the arrest of a Huawei employee in Canada.

Their arrests caused a major diplomatic incident between Canada and China that was ultimately resolved with their release in September 2021.

Mr Spavor is one of the few Westerners with a personal relationsh­ip with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, and has been photograph­ed jet-skiing and drinking cocktails with him on a private yacht.

He was charged with spying for a foreign entity and illegally procuring state secrets, while Mr Kovrig was charged with receiving state secrets and conspiring with Mr Spavor.

A “highly placed” source told Canada’s Globe and Mail that Mr Kovrig was considered an intelligen­ce asset during his postings in Hong Kong and China.

The two men’s imprisonme­nt coincided with the prosecutio­n of Meng Wanzhou on charges of bank and wire fraud. She is the chief financial officer of Huawei and daughter of the firm’s founder. Although the Chinese government denied any connection between the Meng case and the “Two Michaels”, they were all released on the same day .

A Canadian foreign ministry spokesman said both men were free to “speak out about their experience of their arbitrary detention in China”, but said no further informatio­n could be disclosed due to “privacy considerat­ions”.

“China’s arbitrary detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was unjust and unacceptab­le,” he said.

“As the PM noted in 2021, China’s conviction of Michael Spavor on charges of espionage were unfounded, and came after a trial that did not satisfy even the minimum standards required by internatio­nal law.

“Perpetuati­ng the notion that either Michael was involved in espionage is only perpetuati­ng a false narrative under which they were detained by China.

“These two men went through an unbelievab­ly difficult ordeal and every day of their arbitrary detention showed strength, perseveran­ce, resilience and grace.”

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