Michael Spavor one of the two Canadians jailed for almost three years in China over allegations of spying is seeking a multimillion-dollar settlement from Ottawa according to media reports.
He is controversially alleging that he was detained after unwittingly supplying intelligence on North Korea to Canada and other allied agencies, although sources close to the case have questioned the validity of this.
Spavor has alleged that the deception was conducted be follow Canadian Michael Korvig, who was also detained for three years, with them being dubbed “The Two Michaels”. He is now alleging that it was intelligence work by the later that led to their arrest and subsequent incarceration.
Was Michael Korvig a spy?
The allegations have cast new light on the spy intrigue of the case, as well as what both Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig were actually doing while in China.
China arrested the two in December of 2018 under allegations of spying following the detention of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Canada at the time denied that either party were spies under the control of Canada, with Trudeau et all insisting that China had arrested them on trumped-up charges as bargaining chips for the release of Meng Wanzhou.
The two were released in 2021, but have largely remained silent about the affair, much to the destain of many supporters of Spavor, who had raised a large amount of money on his behalf.
Spavor now though is insisting that not only was Korvig a spy, but that he was an unwitting accomplice and therefore deserves millions in compensation.
It is currently understood that confidential negotiations are taking place between Toronto lawyer John K. Phillips, who is representing Mr. Spavor, and Patrick Hill, executive director and senior counsel at the federal Department of Justice and Global Affairs Canada, according to the Globe and Mail of Canada – who have stated they will not be revealing their sources.
Who is Michael Spavor?
Spavor found fame as being part of the group that helped arrange the visit of Dennis Rodman to North Korea. Considered fluent in Korean he acted as the parties translator and as such met Kim Jong Un. He would regularly boast about the trip and meeting, as well as telling people that he had jet skied with the North Korean leader.
Yet while he publicly has stated that the trips went well, other sources have claimed he and Rodman did not see eye to eye at all, with unproved allegations as far fetched as Spavor being physically assaulted after recording the conversations of Rodman and his entourage – according to anonymous sources.
Following this Spavor worked for a period at the hugely successful Pyongyang Project, before launching into a partnership with the formation of Paektu Cultural Exchange. Said partnership reportedly failed before Spavor went solo, with sources within the North Korean tourism sector stating that the project was largely a failure, with the company attracting very few tourists to the country.
What is Spavor alleging?
According to quoted sources Mr. Phillips is alleging that his client, Mr Spavor was arrested by the Chinese because of information that he shared with Mr. Kovrig.
Said information, he states, was then passed on without his knowledge to the Canadian government and its Five Eyes spy-service partners. Korvig had been a diplomat with the Foreign Affairs department’s Global Security Reporting Program.
Korvig reportedly took a leave of absence from Global Affairs Canada in 2017 to join the International Crisis Group, officially an independent Non-Government Organization, which meant he would not have been traveling on a diplomatic passport.
Spavor was subsequently charged with “spying for a foreign entity and illegally sharing state secrets”, while Korvig was charged with “illegally receiving state secrets and intelligence in collaboration with Mr. Spavor”
In August 2021, a mere month before a deal was reached for both of their release Spavor was found guilty by a court of law and sentenced to 11 years in jail, while Korvig had not yet received sentencing before the release of the duo.
And while the Globe and Mail have reported sources saying Korvig was indeed an “asset”, Ottawa has so far denied all claims put forth by Soavor’s legal team.
What next for Micheal Spavor?
With Spavor being represented by the experienced Mr Philipps, who famously obtained a $10.5-million settlement for former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr, he undoubtedly is confident of winning the case, but as is usually the case when it comes to espionage there may well be more to this story.
As one former associate of Spavor’s told us “Michael spoke to everyone about everything, particularly his meetings with Kim Jung Un, of which he was particularly proud. And these included diplomats from numerous countries, as well as journalists, so the allegations of spying have certainly not come from nowhere”.
And similar conclusions might be made about his relationship with Korvig. Spavor obviously knew he was a former diplomat, but still decided to share information and secrets with him. Careless and stupid at best and indeed implicit at worst.
Whether these exchanges ever breached into the realm of spying is of course unknown, but another fair question to ask would be how do you actually define spying? If it is talking to diplomats and government agents about the affairs of another country, then the case might not be as cut and dried as Spavor might hope.