Authorities probing possible foul play after ‘missing’ passport claim

Deputy Transport minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi speaks to reporters at the MH370 press conference today at the Sama-Sama Hotel in Sepang, on March 8, 2014. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa
Deputy Transport minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi speaks to reporters at the MH370 press conference today at the Sama-Sama Hotel in Sepang, on March 8, 2014. — Picture by Mohd Yusof Mat Isa

SEPANG, March 8 — The case of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 aircraft took on a sinister twist today after reports emerged that two foreigners — one Italian and one Austrian — listed on the flight manifest never boarded the plane.

According to several foreign news reports, Italian Luigi Maraldi and Austrian Christian Kozel, both had their passports stolen some time ago.

The reports appeared to suggest the possibility of foul play onboard the ill-fated Boeing B777-200 aircraft which has now been missing for nearly 24 hours.

Speaking to reporters here, deputy Transport Minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi acknowledged the news report on the Italian’s allegedly stolen passport and said the authorities are probing the matter for possible foul play.

“The information is still under review,” he said.

According to Department of Civil Aviation’s director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the airport authorities have examined security footage of the passengers and the baggage.

“This is an issue of security. So far we are satisfied,” he said.

Asked if the authorities have completely ruled out the possibility of a hijacking or terrorism, he said he could not disclose more on the matter until the claim has been verified.

According to the UK-based The Telegraph, the 37-year-old Maraldi told his parents he was in Thailand and never boarded the flight, after his name turned up on the manifest.

In a report on The Guardian, Austria’s foreign ministry spokesman Martin Weiss was quoted as telling media that the Austrian citizen listed on the manifest is safe in his home country and had his passport stolen some years ago in Thailand.

Earlier this morning, MAS confirmed that Subang Air Traffic Control had lost contact with the Beijing-bound MAS flight MH370 which was carrying 239 people, including 12 crew members.

The plane reportedly fell off the radar when it was 120 nautical miles off the coast of Kota Baru and was reported missing at 2.40am this morning, two hours after take-off.

It was originally scheduled to land it Beijing at 6.30am local time.

A massive search and rescue operation involving Malaysian and foreign military assets have been mounted to locate the missing aircraft between Malaysian and Vietnamese waters.

Unconfirmed reports have streamed in, claiming of a 12-mile long oil slick sighting between the waters of Malaysia and Vietnam, allegedly due to the crashed plane.

MAS has yet to confirm the report.

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