Two with stolen passports never planned return, ticket info shows

Passengers queue up for customs checks at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang March 9, 2014. — Reuters pic
Passengers queue up for customs checks at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang March 9, 2014. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — One-way tickets were purchased by the two passengers who boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with stolen passports, authorities revealed as more law enforcement agencies study the possibility of foul play in the disappearance.

Travel data yesterday revealed the two Asian men travelling using what has now been determined to be passports stolen from Italian Luigi Maraldi and Austrian Christian Kozel had purchased the tickets jointly in Phuket, for the MAS flight they boarded together in Kuala Lumpur before transiting in Beijing for Amsterdam.

Similar ticketing data has revealed that the two men made no arrangements to return from Copenhagen, Denmark where Maraldi’s ticket terminated and Frankfurt, Germany for Kozel, according to the New York Times.

The dubious circumstances now surfacing over the two men’s travel arrangements has also drawn the consternation of Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who yesterday questioned why authorities did not flag the discrepancies in the passports’ names and their holders appearance.

“I am still perturbed. Can’t these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian (passport holders) but with Asian faces,” he was quoted as saying late last night.

Zahid’s unhappiness with the way at least two passengers with compromised travel documents boarded the flight was joined by the exasperation of international law enforcers Interpol, who pointed out that both stolen passports used were flagged in its database but which authorities failed to check.

Interpol maintains a vast database of more than 40 million lost and stolen travel documents, and has long urged member countries to make greater use of it to stop people crossing borders on false papers.

In unusually blunt remarks over the failure by security agencies to verify passports used to board international flights, Interpol said it was “greatly concerned” that flagged documents failed to catch the attention of security agencies.

“If Malaysia Airways (sic) and all airlines worldwide were able to check the passport details of prospective passengers against Interpol’s database, then we would not have to speculate whether stolen passports were used by terrorists to board MH 370,” Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble said in a statement.

Yesterday, investigations into the plane’s disappearance was expanded to included the possibility that in was destroyed in mid-air, news agency Reuters reported citing sources.

“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” said the source, who is involved in the preliminary investigations in Malaysia.

But investigators maintain there is no evidence of foul play and even the scenario of catastrophic failure could have been due to structural or mechanical issues.

The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation and other US law-enforcement agencies have offered to help investigate the case, saying they have forensic and analytic tools and criminal investigation expertise that likely could aid the probe.

Flight MH370 has now been missing for more than two days since it lost contact after departing Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing, China on March 8.

There were 239 people on board, including 12 crew members.

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