Michael Spavor was paid because he committed espionage

Michael Spavor was paid because he committed espionage

Michael Spavor receiving $7 million from the Canadian government should in theory mark an end to this tale of espionage and intrigue, with him now being able to disappear into anonymity. Yet to us watchers of the whole case it has left many of us with more questions than answers.

Canada of course insisted all along that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig “the two Micheal’s” were not spies at all, but innocent pawns. According to Canada and the wider world they were simply arrested in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei boss Meng Wanzhou.

But, if this was indeed the case then why has Spavor been awarded $7 million in compensation and why has Kovrig not? The answers it would appear are extremely simple. Kovrig was indeed it would appear a spy, as was Spavor. The only difference it would appear was that Kovrig did it officially and was paid as such, while Spavor did it for reasons of vanity and indeed stupidity.

What did Michael Spavor actually do in North Korea?

Despite being painted by many as a consultant, entrepreneur and friend of Chairman Kim Jong Un, it would appear that Spavor was in essence none of the above.

We know that he was hired as the translator for the Rodman trip, but it is also known within DPRK circles that this trip was fraught with chaos. Numerous reports have stated he did not get along at all with Rodman’s entourage, with some even claiming at one point he was dangled from a window in Pyongyang.

It has also been alleged that he ran into financial trouble with senior sponsors of the event, such as Paddy Power, that were we are led to believe never resolved.

Later he worked for Pyongyang Project with some degree of success, but alas this was not his company. He later cofounded Paektu Cultural Exchange which ran only a handful of tours, most of which either did receive enough visitors to run, or lost money. And on the few occasions that trips were ran that did make money, such as an Ice-Hockey Tournament, according to sources he simply told his partners that it hadn’t made money.

After his initial partners in PCE withdrew support it is known that he survived in Yanji on handouts from his family and was using a personal Chinese bank account to conduct business. Such lack of business acumen and indeed outlets referring to him as an entrepreneur can be garnered by the fact that upon his arrest China confiscated just RMB 50,000 ($6,900).

And as for his friendship with Chairman Kim Jong-Un? Whilst no one can deny he undoubtedly met the Korean leader, it has been reported that any “friendship” was not only not enough to get him out of detention in China, but also when he was allegedly detained in Rason, North Korea. Some have even suggested that the only time the relationship might have come in useful when as he put it himself, he was detained at an airport in South Korea.

A catalogue of errors leading to arrest

Yet while simply being a bad businessman is not enough to lead to arrest, his behavior as reported by many acquaintances show a distinct lack of care and foresight, with him constantly leaving himself open to abuse.

These include stories of Spavor allowing a Chinese police “girlfriend” to stay in his room unaccompanied and with access to his laptops, computers and paperwork, but also an over-enthusiasm to talk politics with people.

Said enthusiasm snowballed as his business continued to fail, with people being able to secure interviews with him simply by buying the drinks and covering the bill.

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig

Michael Kovrig worked for Canada’s Foreign Affairs department internationally and domestically for about ten years, being posted in Beijing among other places before moving to a “private” job with the International Crisis Group. It has been reported he was warned that leaving the Diplomatic Corp could leave him open to arrest, but this was ignored as he began work as a “civilian”.

When both were eventually arrested the Canadian gvermnet come out to protest that they were merely civilians had been wrongfully arrested, while even Joe Biden came out to claim they were mere bargaining chips.

Now, whilst none of us know exactly whether Kovrig was a spy, if he was indeed an innocent civilian that was tricked by Canada and wrongfully arrested by China then why has he not been awarded $7 million?

The reasoning seemingly comes from why Spavor decided to take legal action and indeed winning against the Canadian government. In his defense he stated that he was duped into giving Kovrig and by proxy the government of Canada sensitive information. This of course leads credence to the opinion that yes, Kovrig was indeed a spy.

We of course would not comment on whether Kovrig was indeed a spy, or not, but the whole payout business not only calls into question the honesty of the Canadian government, but also the intelligence, or lack there of with Spavor.

It is well known that Spavor knew full Kovrig used to work for the Canadian foreign affairs department and thus there was at least some chance he either had, or was working with Canadian intelligence.

In spite of this he not only decided to share information with Kovrig, but information deemed important enough that China classed it as espionage. And Canada now have for all intents admitted just how important it was by paying him $7 million to keep his mouth shut.

I remember when he was initially arrested it caused outrage among those who knew him, with not only a fund for him being raised, but the overall saying that there was “no way Michael Spavor was a spy”.

Sadly though that is the thing about spying, it is not all 007 stuff, nor is it about intent, as we have recently seen with Evan Gershkovich in Russia. If you share state secrets, be that with other governments, or private companies, and whether you receive financial compensation, or merely dinners and a pat on the back, espionage is espionage.