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Stolen passports on missing Malaysia Airlines jet

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-08

As the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 continued on Saturday, identifying who exactly was onboard proved to be a bigger challenge than expected, as it became clear that at least one passenger was travelling with a stolen passport.

The Boeing B777-200 aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur at 12:41am and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30am. The flight, however, lost contact with air traffic control shortly after take-off at 2:40am and has been missing ever since. There were 227 passengers on board, including two infants, and 12 crew members.

Following the plane’s disappearance, Malaysia Airlines issued a list of all the passengers onboard. It said that 152 were from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India, three from the US and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Austria.

As countries began confirming Malaysia Airlines’ list, a spokesman from Austria’s Foreign Ministry in Vienna said that an Austrian reported to have been onboard the flight, Christian Kozel, 30, was actually safe at home, and that his passport had been stolen two years ago while travelling in Thailand.

“Our embassy got the information that there was an Austrian on board. That was the passenger list from Malaysia Airlines. Our system came back with a note that this is a stolen passport,” the spokesman said.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry in Rome also said that one of its citizens, Luigi Maraldi, 37, was not on the flight, despite having appeared on Malaysian Airlines’ passenger list.

Italian daily Corriere Della Sera reported that, like Kozel, Maraldi’s passport had been stolen in Thailand last August. The police could not confirm press reports that it had been registered as lost or stolen there, explaining that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was responsible for thefts abroad.

When contacted, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs referred the question to the Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It’s interesting that there were two cases on the same plane but we just know that our Austrian was not on board,” the Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said. “Someone used a document to get on the plane. But whoever used that, we have nothing to say about that, we don’t know, that would be for the authorities to look into.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-08

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