An elderly, wrinkled white man boarded a plane in Hong Kong and a young, baby-faced Asian man deplaned in Vancouver in what Canadian authorities are calling an "unbelievable" case of disguised identity.
Midway through the Oct. 29 Air Canada flight, the man entered the plane's lavatory and removed an intricately detailed silicone mask. When he returned to his seat, his identity as an Asian man in his early 20s was revealed, according to an "Intelligence Alert" circulated internally by the Canada Border Services Agency.
"Information was received from Air Canada Corporate Security regarding a possible imposter on a flight originating from Hong Kong," reads the alert. "The passenger in question was observed at the beginning of the flight to be an elderly Caucasian male who appeared to have young looking hands. During the flight the subject attended the washroom and emerged an Asian looking male that appeared to be in his early 20s."
The bulletin describes the incident as an "unbelievable case of concealment."
The Canada Border Services Agency would not discuss the case other than to confirm that they had "intercepted and detained the traveler attempting to enter Canada under false pretences."
But spokesmen for the Canada Immigration Ministry and Air Canada confirmed the details of the incident included in the CBSA bulletin.
The man, whose name has not been released by authorities, was met at the gate by Canadian security officials. He declared refugee status after being escorted through customs.
Officials searched the man's baggage and discovered a "disguise kit," including the silicone mask, a brown leather cap, glasses, and a brown cardigan.
"The subject admitted… that he had boarded the flight with the mask and removed it several hours later," according to the alert.
According to the CBSA document, the man swapped boarding passes prior to boarding with an American born in 1955.
"It is believed that" the man showed his Aeroplan credit card as identification to board the flight. "Neither boarding passes not Aeroplan cards reflects date of birth," according to the alert.
An Air Canada official told ABC News that the airline requires passengers to show a passport before boarding international flights leaving Hong Kong.
"There are multiple ID checks, including Chinese passport control and a required passport check at the desk," said Air Canada.
Officials are trying to detemine whether the suspect went through a passport check or whether he evaded it.
"Transport Canada is aware of the incident and is investigating whether the Identity Screening Regulations were respected," the CSBA said.
It was also unclear whether the elderly white man who traded boarding passes with the suspect also boarded the plane, and if he did board what he used for identification.
"We can confirm CBSA officials met the individual. They are investigating the individual, and he is still in their custody," said an Air Canada official.
Citing privacy concerns neither the CBSA nor the Immigration Ministry would confirm the man's name, nationality, or his reasons for boarding the plane in disguise.
The man donned the disguised for border agents who "noted he very much resembled an elderly Caucasian man, complete with mimicking the movements of an elderly person," according to the bulletin.