Mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 – The Stolen Passports


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.Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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On Saturday, March 8, 2041, the investigators of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 discovered that two people named on the passenger manifest – Christian Kozel from Austria and Luigi Maraldi from Italy – whose passports had been stolen while vacationing in Thailand were not aboard the plane.

Luigi Maraldi showing his new passport while vacationing in Thailand (Source: abcnews.go.com)
Luigi Maraldi showing his new passport while vacationing in Thailand (Source: abcnews.go.com)

We now have a photograph of Luigi Maraldi showing his new passport taken on March 9, 2014, while vacationing in Thailand.

Mario Balotelli, , Italian football player. (Source: zimbio.com)
Mario Balotelli, Italian football player. (Source: zimbio.com)

Investigators trying to establish the identity of the two people travelling with the stolen passports first concluded that they were Asians. Later, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority said one of them looked like Mario Balotelli, the Italian football player.

Is Mario Balotelli a lookalike of Luigi Maraldi?

Meanwhile, INTERPOL said its investigations showed there could have been other people with “suspect passports” on the airplane. Malaysian authorities concurring with INTERPOL said that up to four people could have boarded the plane using fake documents, and have asked help from the FBI.      

Iranian youth Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad (Source: telegraph.co.uk)
Iranian youth Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad (Source: telegraph.co.uk)

Malaysian police released the photograph of a 19-year-old Iranian named Bouria Nour Mohammad Mehread who boarded the plane with the stolen passport of Christian Kozel. They believe that he was trying to immigrate to Germany seeking asylum and join his mother who has already immigrated to Frankfurt. The teenager’s mother was aware that her son was travelling using fake documents. The officials said that he is “unlikely” to be a terrorist.

Photograph of an unidentified man who boarded the missing plane. (Source : telegraph.co.uk)
Photograph of an unidentified man who boarded the missing plane. (Source : telegraph.co.uk)

The police also released a photograph of an unidentified man who also boarded the missing plane. INTERPOL has now identified this person as Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza, an Iranian aged 29.

INTERPOL said the two men had travelled from Doha, Qatar’s capital, using their Iranian passports. In Kuala Lumpur they had obtained the stolen Austrian and Italian passports and boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

These statements by the Malaysian authorities and INTERPOL supports the account given to the BBC by a young Iranian in Kuala Lumpur. This person, a school friend of one of these two men said that his friend and the other Iranian stayed with him before taking the Malaysia Airlines flight, hoping to settle in Europe.

Reports from Thailand said that an Iranian middleman had bought the tickets for the two men through a travel agency in Pattaya, Thailand.

Grand Horizon Travel Agency in Pattaya, Thailand (Source: nbcnews.com)
Grand Horizon Travel Agency in Pattaya, Thailand. (Source: nbcnews.com)

Benjaporn Krutnait, owner of Grand Horizon Travel Agency in Pattaya, Thailand, admitted to the FBI that on March 1, 2014, an Iranian whom she knew only as “Mr. Ali” asked her to book two tickets on an inexpensive flight to Europe.

She said that she initially booked them on two separate flights – one on Qatar Airways and another on Etihad airline. However, the tickets expired before she heard again from Mr. Ali on Thursday, March 6, 2014.

She then made the booking for the two men on  Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) since Mr. Alid did not specify any particular flight. When a friend of the Iranian paid in cash, she arranged with Six Stars Travel, a larger travel agency, to issue the tickets.

Benjaporn said that she had known Mr. Ali for about three years. As a regular traveler between Tehran and Pattaya he had been using her agency for his travel needs, and there was nothing to suggest that he knew the two men were going to travel using stolen passports, she said.

Though there is nothing to implicate the two Iranians, who had used the stolen passports, with the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370), the stolen passports has added a twist to the mystery.

INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database holds information on more than 40 million travel documents reported lost or stolen by 167 countries. This database helps INTERPOL National Central Bureaus and other authorized law enforcement entities such as immigration and border control officers to double-check the validity of a suspect travel document in seconds. INTERPOL said both stolen passports had been added to its database of Stolen and Lost Travel Documents in 2012 and 2013 as soon as they were reported missing.

During the boarding of passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) there had been a breach of security. The immigration authorities failed to check INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and the two Iranians slipped through. The truth came to light only after the disappearance of the aircraft.

This incident of stolen passports coming to light reminds me of the 2010 Air India Express Flight 812 overshot the runway at the ‘tabletop’ Bajpe airport in Mangalore, Karnataka, India. Only eight people survived the crash while 158 died. The aftermath of the crash revealed that around 10 stolen, counterfeit, and questionable passports were used by passengers on that flight. The incident also raised concerns about security checks at the Dubai International Airport.

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