Stolen passports probed in plane mystery

2014-03-11 09:10
A Thai policeman shows a copy of Italian Luigi Maraldi’s stolen passport as he visits the Six Stars Travel for questioning in Pattaya, Chonburi province, Thailand. (File, AP)

A Thai policeman shows a copy of Italian Luigi Maraldi’s stolen passport as he visits the Six Stars Travel for questioning in Pattaya, Chonburi province, Thailand. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pattaya - There was still no trace of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane on Tuesday, a day after authorities questioned travel agents at a beach resort in Thailand about two men who boarded the flight with stolen passports, part of a growing international investigation.

Three days after the plane with 239 people on board vanished from radar screens between Malaysia and Vietnam, the search effort by at least 34 aircraft and 40 ships was being widened to a 185km radius from the point the plane was last detected.

Five passengers who checked in for flight MH370 didn't board the plane, and their luggage was removed from it, Malaysian authorities said. Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said this also was being investigated, but he didn't say whether this was suspicious.

Two of the passengers were travelling on passports stolen in Thailand and had onward tickets to Europe, but it's not known whether the two men had anything to do with the plane's disappearance. Criminals and illegal migrants regularly travel on fake or stolen documents.

Hishammuddin said biometric information and CCTV footage of the men has been shared with Chinese and US intelligence agencies, which were helping with the investigation. Almost two-thirds of the passengers on the flight were from China.

‘Mr Ali’

The stolen passports, one belonging to Christian Kozel of Austria and the other to Luigi Maraldi of Italy, were entered into Interpol's database after they were taken in Thailand in 2012 and 2013, the police organisation said.

Electronic booking records show that one-way tickets with those names were issued on Thursday from a travel agency in the beach resort of Pattaya in eastern Thailand. Thai police Colonel Supachai Phuykaeokam said those reservations were placed with the agency by a second travel agency in Pattaya, Grand Horizon.

Thai police and Interpol officers questioned the owners. Officials at Grand Horizon refused to talk to The Associated Press.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Ratchthapong Tia-sood said the travel agency was contacted by an Iranian man known only as "Mr Ali" to book the tickets for the two men.

"We have to look further into this Mr. Ali's identity because it's almost a tradition to use an alias when doing business around here," he said.

The travel agency's owner, Benjaporn Krutnait, told The Financial Times she believed Mr Ali was not connected to terrorism because he had asked for cheapest tickets to Europe and did not specify the Kuala Lumpur to Beijing flight.

Malaysia's police chief was quoted by local media as saying that one of the two men had been identified - something that could speed up the investigation.

‘Is he black?’

Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman declined to confirm this, but said they were of "non-Asian" appearance, adding that authorities were looking at the possibility the men were connected to a stolen passport syndicate.

Asked by a reporter what they looked like, he said: "Do you know of a footballer by the name of [Mario] Balotelli? He is an Italian. Do you know how he looks like?" A reporter then asked, "Is he black?" and the aviation chief replied, "Yes".

Possible causes of the apparent crash include an explosion, catastrophic engine failure, terrorist attack, extreme turbulence, pilot error or even suicide, according to experts, many of whom cautioned against speculation because so little is known.

Malaysia's air force chief, Rodzali Daud, has said radar indicated that before it disappeared, the plane may have turned back, but there were no further details on which direction it went or how far it veered off course.

On Sunday, a Vietnamese plane spotted a rectangular object that was thought to be one of the plane's doors, but ships could not locate it. On Monday, a Singaporean search plane spotted a yellow object 140km southwest of Tho Chu island, but it turned out to be sea trash.

Malaysian maritime officials found oil slicks in the South China Sea, but lab tests found that samples of it were not from an aircraft, Azharuddin said.

Selamat Omar, a Malaysian whose 29-year-old son Mohamad Khairul Amri Selamat was a passenger on the flight, told of getting a call from the airline saying the plane was missing.

"We accept God's will," Selamat said. "Whether he is found alive or dead, we surrender to Allah."
- AP
Read more on:    malaysia airlines  |  malaysia  |  air travel  |  air crashes  |  malaysia airlines flight mh370  |  aviation
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland
The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

At last you are able to see the light. You are able to break through obstacles in an innovative and original way. Visualisation is...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.