Canada has cancelled the passport of an alleged Russian spy who fled after being freed on bail in Cyprus.
A Passport Canada spokeswoman said the agency revoked the travel document issued to Christopher Metsos, the accused paymaster of a Russian espionage ring.
"We conducted our review and cancelled the passport," Veronique Robitaille said Monday.
Cypriot officials confirmed earlier this month that Metsos had assumed the identity of a dead five-year-old Canadian boy to obtain a passport, raising questions about document security.
The officials said they learned the details from Renata Wielgosz, Canada's ambassador to Cyprus and Greece.
Other reports indicated Metsos had obtained the passport through the Canadian Embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Metsos was among 11 people — four of whom claimed to be Canadian — indicted on charges of conspiring to act as secret agents in the United States on behalf of the SVR, the Russian Federation's successor to the infamous KGB.
Ten arrested in the United States were sent back to Moscow after pleading guilty, part of a swap for prisoners in Russia.
But Metsos, arrested June 29, skipped bail in Cyprus and hasn't surfaced since.
Until now, Canadian officials have said little about the spy caper that grabbed headlines around the world and rekindled memories of Cold War cloak-and-dagger intrigue.
However, Passport Canada, the lead federal agency on the file, acknowledged it was looking into the matter.
"Where Passport Canada is informed that an individual may have provided false or misleading information to obtain a passport, or may have misused a passport, we review the matter and take appropriate action," Robitaille said Monday.
She noted the Canadian Passport Order, legislation governing travel documents, allows the agency to revoke a passport if the holder:
- Is charged in a foreign country with a crime that would constitute an indictable offence if committed in Canada.
- Uses the passport to assist in committing an indictable offence
- Has obtained the passport through false or misleading information.
It remains unclear how Metsos — described by the FBI as "a secret SVR agent who is based abroad" — was able to obtain a Canadian passport.
Robitaille declined to elaborate on the agency's review. "I can't provide any further details about the case."
Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Dick Fadden told a Commons committee this month that foreign spies value the Canadian passport.
"I think one of the reasons that Canada's so attractive is that we're so well-viewed around the world, and our passports are accepted virtually anywhere, so there is a level of concern."