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Asia-pacific

Interpol says use of stolen passports on Malaysia flight 'of great concern'

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-09

An Interpol database that held information on two stolen passports used by passengers to board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was not checked by security officials at any time before take-off, the international police agency said Sunday.

In a sharply worded criticism of shortcomings of national passport controls, the Lyon, France-based body said the Austrian and Italian passports were recorded in its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database after they were stolen in Thailand in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

However, no checks were made by any country between the time they were entered into Interpol’s database and the departure of the ill-fated flight, it said.

“Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol’s databases,” said the agency’s secretary general Ronald K Noble.

“What is important at the moment is to find out what caused Malaysian Airways flight 370 to go missing, and in this regard Interpol is making all needed resources available to help relevant authorities in Malaysia and elsewhere find out what happened.”

Tragedy ‘we hoped never to see’

Interpol’s SLTD database contains more than 40 million entries and is accessible to law enforcement entities such as immigration and border control officers.

Although more than 800 million searches of the database are made each year, Interpol says few countries systematically use it to screen passports to see if they have been stolen.

“This is a situation we had hoped never to see,” said Noble. “For years Interpol has asked why should countries wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates.”

Interpol said it had begun investigating all other passports used to board flight MH370 and was working to determine the “true identities” of the passengers who used the stolen passports.

Malaysian Airways flight MH370 vanished from the radar somewhere at sea between Malaysia and Vietnam early on Saturday with 239 people on board.

A vast international search operation for the plane’s wreckage is underway in the South China Sea while the cause of the Boeing 777’s disappearance is still unknown.

The stolen passports, and the sudden disappearance of the plane that experts say is consistent with a possible onboard explosion, have raised concerns about terrorism as a possible explanation.

However, authorities have stressed that there is as yet no evidence that an act of terror was carried out and other possibilities such as catastrophic failure of the engines, extreme turbulence or pilot error remain just as likely.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2014-03-09

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