Stories Surrounding The Passengers Using Stolen Passports Onboard MH370

Speculations of terrorism, hijacking and sabotage have been rife after two to four stolen passports were found to be onboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. SAYS takes an in depth look into the stories surrounding the stolen passports.

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How Did Two Iranians With Fake Passports Pass Through Malaysian Immigration And Boarded MH370?

A combination photo shows two men whom police said were travelling on stolen passports onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane, taken before their departure at KLIA in this March 11, 2014 handout courtesy of the Malaysian Police.

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In Parliament today, Zahid listed the chronological account of how the two Iranians travelled from their home country to Doha, Qatar and then Phuket, Thailand where they bought the stolen passports believed to be priced at US$10,000 (RM32,938) each.

He confirmed that the two left Thailand and entered Malaysia using the stolen passports, but declined to elaborate when Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad asked if this meant the Thai authorities had “failed” to detect the duo. Zahid also disclosed that investigators had found the hotel the duo stayed in Kuala Lumpur immediately after the MH370 passenger manifest list was released.

Based on close-circuit television camera (CCTV) recordings, investigators had then quizzed those who were in contact with the Iranians before they left Malaysia on the Beijing-bound MH370. But he repeated the probe’s conclusion that both Iran nationals were neither “criminals” nor “terrorists”. “The two are not terrorists, not asylum seekers. They wanted to stay in Europe,” he said, noting that the stolen Austrian and Italian passports would have enabled the duo to enter European Union (EU) countries without applying for visas.

Zahid said the Iranian duo did not obtain visas from China ― as is usually required ― because they were merely passing through the country to their final destination in Europe.

Upon entry, immigration officials found that the Iranians' faces matched the photographs in the stolen passports and quizzed them, Zahid said. When the duo wanted to leave for Beijing, officials checked immigration's records and cleared them after finding that all was in order with their visiting passes, which were still valid, he added.

Zahid said local immigration records showed that the duo had entered the country for the first time, indicating that they would not have managed to evade detection if they were re-entering the country using false identities. “If someone had entered Malaysia before and was present at the second time using travel documents that has differing identity information with that used previously, the biometrics system will be able to detect,” he said.

He said the stolen passports used by the duo were genuine documents, but also pointed out that passports issued by some countries lacked security features such as biometrics and barcodes. Passports issued by Malaysia, on the other hand, was of the best standards globally, he said.

CIA Refuses To Rule Out Terrorist Link On Missing MH370

Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan takes questions from the audience after addressing the Council on Foreign Relations March 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.

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The head of the US Central Intelligence Agency said Tuesday that terrorism could not be ruled out in the disappearance of a Malaysian airliner, describing the plane's fate as a "mystery."

CIA Director John Brennan said there had been reports of claims of responsibility for downing the missing jet, but stressed that these were far from confirmed. "I think there's a lot of speculation right now -- some claims of responsibility that have not been, you know, confirmed or corroborated at all," he said. "We are looking at it very carefully."

Brennan provided no further details, but his comment was the first reference by a US official to any alleged claim of responsibility over the jet’s fate. When asked if he could rule out a terrorist link, Brennan said: “No, I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Brennan, the former counter-terrorism adviser to President Barack Obama, said there were many unanswered questions and it was too early to reach any conclusions about the Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished Saturday with 239 people on board after taking from Kuala Lumpur en route to Beijing.

"There are a number of very curious anomalies about all of this...You know, did it turn around? You know, were the individuals with these stolen passports in any way involved?" He added: "What about the transponder? Why did it sort of, you know, just disappear from the radar?" Asked about speculation that the pilot may have sought to commit suicide, Brennan said: "I think you cannot discount any theory."

Search and rescue operations for MH370 continues

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11 March: Interpol Identifies The Second Iranian Suspect As 29-Year-Old Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza

Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad is second from the left. Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, on the far right, travelled with him on the missing plane.

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He identified the men as Pouri Nourmohammadi, 19, and Delavar Seyedmohammaderza, 29. The 19-year-old is believed to have planned to seek asylum in Germany.

Pouria Nourmohammadi (Facebook pic), who boarded MH370 on Saturday with a stolen passport, was excited about the flight.

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Pouria Nourmohammadi (Facebook pic), who boarded MH370 on Saturday with a stolen passport, was excited about the flight. The 19-year-old indicated on his Facebook page that he was "feeling excited". It was his last posting on the online social network. “Because of some problems I will deactivate my account. Friends, seriously, if I’ve done any of you a bad turn, forgive me because maybe …” he posted on his Facebook page on February 24. On March 4, a friend of Pouria wrote and asked if he was ever going back to Iran. The teen simply replied, "No." After the teen went through custom checks at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, he posted: “Thanks to all of those who prayed for me, I’m safe.”

Khalid said police had established Pouria's identity after they made contact with his mother. "We know he wanted to migrate to Germany because we are in contact with his mother. His mother was waiting for him to arrive in Frankfurt. "When he never arrived, she contacted us here, that is why we know he is the same one using the stolen passport," he said.

5PM: 19-Year-Old Iranian Teen Onboard MH370 'Not Likely' To Be Terrorist Says Police

Authorities release the images of two suspects onboard MH370 travelling with stolen passports

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Malaysia’s police chief revealed the identity of one of the passengers on board the plane as a 19 year old Iranian man and said it was “not likely” they were involved with a terrorist organisation. The investigation into the second person was ongoing.

Iranian Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad in KLIA

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Police today identified the bearer of the stolen Austrian passport, one of two used to board missing MH370, was an Iranian national, Pouria Nour Mohammad Mahread, 19, who was on his way to Germany.

"We identified him through the biometric data taken from him when he first came into the country. He was on a 90-day social visit pass." Khalid said the Iranian passenger's mother was expecting him in Frankfurt and knew he was travelling on a stolen passport. Pouria Nour was to have flown to Frankfurt on Saturday night, from Beijing.

"He was migrating to Germany," he said. Khalid said the Iranian passenger's mother was expecting him in Frankfurt and knew he was travelling on a stolen passport. Pouria Nour was to have flown to Frankfurt on Saturday night, from Beijing. When questioned further on how Malaysian police were sure that Pouria Nour was not a terrorist, Khalid said their counterparts all over had the cleared the youth.

Thai Travel Agent Who Booked Tickets For The Imposters On MH370 Tells Her Story

MH370 press conference on TV

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The two men travelling on stolen passports on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that mysteriously disappeared on Saturday have been identified as Iranian nationals.

A BBC Persia report quotes an Iranian friend of one of the men, who said he hosted the pair in Kuala Lumpur after they arrived from Tehran in the days preceding their flight to Beijing.

The two men who boarded Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 with stolen passports reportedly purchased their tickets via a mysterious Iranian known only as “Mr. Ali.”

The Financial Times report had said that a Thai travel agent who booked the tickets for the men said that she had been asked to make the travel arrangements by an Iranian contact. Travel agent Benjaporn Krutnait, booked the tickets through a business contact whom she only knew as "Mr Ali". She said that his first request to book cheap tickets to Europe for the two men was made on March 1.

Benjaporn initially reserved one of the men on a Qatar Airways flight and the other on Etihad. But the tickets expired when Benjaporn did not hear back from Ali. The Financial Times said when Ali contacted her again on Thursday, she rebooked the men on the Malaysia Airlines flight through Beijing because it was the cheapest available.

Benjaporn said she did not believe Ali was linked to terrorism, particularly as he had not specified booking the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight but had instead asked for the cheapest route to Europe, FT reported. Benjaporn was quoted as saying that she was speaking about the case because she was concerned over the speculation about a terrorist attack and wanted the facts to be known.

"Mr. Ali" is cooperating with authorities. He reportedly told investigators all he knew about the two men after learning about the developments in the case of the missing plane, according to NBC News.

10 March: The Passengers That Boarded MH370 Using Stolen Passports Look Like An Italian Footballer

Mario Balotelli

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Here is exactly what Rahman said about the appearance of the passengers on the stolen passports.

“It is confirmed now that they are not Asian looking men,” he said.

A reporter asked Rahman to say “roughly” what they looked like. He replied “Do you know a footballer by the name of Balotelli [using an approximate pronunciation of the name]”.

Reporters shouted the the name Balotelli, pronouncing the name footballer’s name correctly. Rahman corrected his initially pronunciation, and said: “Balotelli, yes”.
He added that the nationality of the men could not be confirmed.

The comment prompted laughter at the news conference, but has sparked anger on social media.

On Day 1 Of MH370's Disappearance, Interpol Confirmed That Two MH370 Passengers Had Boarded The Plane Using Fake Passports

Interpol confirmed that at least two stolen passports used by passengers on the plane were registered in its databases. It said no one had checked the databases, but added that most airlines and countries do not usually check for stolen passports.

Two European names -- Christian Kozel, an Austrian, and Luigi Maraldi of Italy -- were listed on the passenger manifest of the flight MH370, but neither man boarded the plane, officials said. Both had their passports stolen in Thailand over the past two years.

The Original Owners Of The Passports, Austrian Christian Kozel And Italian Luigi Maraldi, Both Did Not Board The MH370 Flight. Their Passports Were Stolen In Thailand.

Italian Luigi Maraldi, left, whose stolen passport was used by a passenger boarding a missing Malaysian airliner, shows his passport as he reports himself to Thai police at Phuket police station in Phuket province, southern Thailand

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In the hours after Flight MH370 went missing, it emerged that two Europeans listed on the passenger manifest – an Italian, Luigi Maraldi and an Austrian, Christian Kozel – had not been on the flight. Mr Maraldi's passport was stolen in Thailand last year and Mr Kozel's was stolen two years ago. The international investigative agency Interpol said both documents were listed in its stolen passport database.

Luigi Maraldi, 37, from Italy had called his parents from Thailand to inform that he was fine after hearing news reports. Christian Kozel, 30, from Austrian, also called his family to say he was not aboard the missing flight. Both Maraldi and Kozel had their passport stolen in Thailand.

The Two 'Italian' And 'Austrian' Passengers Had Bought Their Tickets Together From China Southern Airlines. Both Were Destined For Amsterdam Before Moving Onward To Copenhagen and Frankfurt Respectively.

Mr Maraldi and Mr Kozel's e-ticket

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Two mystery passengers bought their tickets together, and boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 apparently using stolen passports.

The two passports were reportedly used to buy contiguous tickets from China Southern Airlines – which codeshares with Malaysia Airlines – from a travel agent in Pattaya in Thailand.

CNN reported the tickets were issued together and bought from China Southern Airlines in Thai baht.
The two tickets both started in Kuala Lumpur, flying to Beijing, and then onward to Amsterdam. The Italian passport ticket continues to Copenhagen, while the Austrian's to Frankfurt, the report said.

On Day 2, Two More MH370 Passengers Were Reportedly Found With Fake Passports

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had confirmed that at least four names were under probe. He said the Malaysian intelligence agency was working with its overseas counterparts, including the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and counter-terrorism units from neighbouring countries.

But more ominous questions about who was on board the plane emerged on Sunday as Malaysia's Transport minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, said the identities of four passengers are now being investigated. "All four names are with me," he said, according to Reuters.

Authorities have yet to confirm the identities of two more European passengers on flight MH370, adding to two others using stolen passports in the Malaysia Airlines plane which vanished over the Malaysia-Vietnam maritime border yesterday. "The background checks with the embassies are being done but these two cannot be confirmed," a source told The Malaysian Insider, adding that both were from the same country.

Malaysia's Department Of Civil Aviation Are Investigating CCTV Footages Of The Passengers Who Boarded The Plane Using Stolen Passports

Director-General of Malaysia's civil aviation body, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman

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Amid speculation that foul play may have been behind the plane's demise, Director-General of Malaysia's civil aviation body, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said last night that Malaysian investigators were looking at CCTV footage of two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports.

Malaysian authorities have downplayed the significance of those flying on stolen passports, with Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi saying last night that they could not reveal too many details about security. "We have reviewed the closed-circuit television video footage pertaining to passengers and their baggage. "So far, we are satisfied with everything," Aziz said, adding that the authorities were not ruling out any possibilities at this juncture.

"The video of the two passengers is now being looked at," he said in Kuala Lumpur. "We are looking at all angles and all possibilities."

But They Have Been Avoiding Media Questions About The Identity Of The Imposters As Leaked Information Could Compromise Investigations

'Info on MH370 imposters could compromise probe'

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As questions persist about two imposters who boarded the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) is adamantly against releasing any information which could compromise investigations.

"We will not reveal too much on the two passengers as it is under investigation and any information I give you might jeopardise the investigation that is going on," director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (in brown shirt) told a press conference at Sama-Sama Hotel, KL International Airport this afternoon.

Azaharuddin said information on the two imposters will only be released once the DCA receives a report from the investigation team. "The investigation team is now, even as we speak, going through all the records and video footage. Once we get any reports, we will inform you about what has been gathered by the team of experts investigating the two passengers," he said.

Pressed as to whether the authorities will at least release photographs of the two suspicious passengers, Azaharuddin replied: "We have to first discuss with the investigating officers and relevant agencies.”

The Malaysian Authorities Are Not Dismissing Possibilities Of Terrorism And Hijacking Yet As This New Revelation Sparks Fears Of Terror Element

Two of the passengers on board the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight have been found to be using fake passports, sparking fears of a possible terror element.

He declined to provide details of what examination of the CCTV footage revealed, but added: "On the possibility of hijack, we are not ruling out any possibility. However, it is important to state that our main concern is to focus our effort to find the missing aircraft."

For Now, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi Has Called For An Internal Probe On The Immigration Department. "I Am Still Puzzled How Come Immigration Officers Cannot Think, An Italian And Austrian Passengers But With Asian Facial Features."

Home Minister Zahid Hamidi Has Called For An Internal Probe On The Immigration Department.

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An internal investigation on the Immigration Department has commenced following reports that two passengers were using stolen passports to board the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370. Ahmad Zahid said the investigation was conducted by a special team, led by Immigration Department Director-General Datuk Aloyah Mamat.

Malaysia’s Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the detailed investigation would give special attention to the department's Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) branch. "We will conduct an internal probe, particularly on the officers, who were on duty at the KLIA immigration counter during flight MH370.

"I am still puzzled how come (immigration officers) cannot think, an Italian and Austrian (passengers) but with Asian facial features," he told reporters at the Kembara Bumi Suci 2014 convoy participants meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak in Putrajaya on Sunday.

Ahmad Zahid said it was difficult to determine the authencity of an international passport because not all countries used the biometric system and bar code as in Malaysia.

Interpol, "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."

Italian passport

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As Interpol confirm they are investigating the identity of two passengers believed to be travelling with stolen passports, a leading security expert claims Thailand is at the centre of the illicit trade in stolen and fraudulent passports and forged documentation due to its lax laws.

Ronald Noble, who heads the international intelligence agency, warned that the failure to use Interpol’s stolen passports database was creating a “major gap” in the “global security apparatus”. He also said that airlines should be using Interpol data to monitor stolen passports.

But it said no country had consulted the database to check either of them since the time they were stolen, so it was unclear how many times they might have been used to board flights or cross borders.

"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," Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said in a statement.

Interpol's Stolen And Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) Database Has 40 Million Records From 167 Countries, But The Database Is Not Available To Airlines

Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database currently contains 40 million records from 167 countries - the equivalent of a country the size of Poland. Although it was searched more than 800 million times in 2013, an estimated four out of every 10 international passengers are still not screened against the database.

The database is currently available to law enforcement authorities but not to airlines, the spokeswoman said. "This is a situation we had hoped never to see. For years Interpol has asked why should countries wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates," Noble said.

"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," he added.

According To Terrorism Expert Rohan Gunaratna, Only Criminals And Terrorists Would Travel Using Stolen Passports

MH370 on the arrival board at Beijing International Airport

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Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University said there were only two categories of travellers using stolen passports: criminals and terrorists.

"To blame Malaysian authorities for this is probably unfair – they have to get it right all the time and potential hijackers just have to get through once," he added.

But The Guardian Noted That There Had Been Cases Of Syrians Using Fake Passports To Enter Sweden In An Effort To Seek Refugee Status

Just why the men posing as the Italian and Austrian would have used the false documents is still unclear. Terrorism is a possibility, but so is asylum: six Syrians hoping to seek refugee status in Sweden have been detained for over a month at Phuket's international airport after attempting to fly to Stockholm via Beijing on Greek passports. Local media outlet Phuketwan reported that the group said they had chosen to fly through Phuket and Beijing because other refugees had reached Sweden using the same flight path.

Besides That, Netizens Are Questioning The Identity Of Passenger 84 On The MH370 Passenger List Released By The Beijing Airport As The Name Was Censored

A Censored Name On The Passenger Manifest Released By The Beijing Airport

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According to The Real Singapore reader CK: Apparently on Chinese social media (i.e. netizens), there is a photo of a passengers list which includes all passenger names and information. On this picture, the name of passenger 84 is blurred out. Apparently the rumour among the netizens is that Passenger 84 is an Uyghur, an ethnic group in China.

Uncensored version of the passenger manifest

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