Officials at the International Police Agency (Interpol) on Sunday slammed its member nations for not screening passports through Interpol's database which listed two passports reported in its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) program database that were believed used by two passengers who were allegedly on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 370.
The two passports -- one Austrian, the other Italian -- showed up in Interpol’s SLTD database after their thefts occurred in Thailand the first in 2012 and the second in 2013. Interpol reported that it is widening its examination of other passports used to board Flight MH 370 which may have been reported stolen in past years, according to police agency's statement.
In its statement regarding international passport fraud, Interpol officials based in the organization's headquarters in Lyon, France claims it is conducting a search of its database for additional suspicious passports in the hope of identifying the two "mystery" passengers who used the stolen passports to board the ill-fated flight that disappeared Saturday minutes after leaving the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on a trip Beijing, China.
"Unfortunately, few member countries systematically search its databases to see whether stolen travel documents or passports were being used by passengers," the group's statement said.
“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,” said the Interpol chief Ronald Noble.
“What is important at the moment is to find out what caused Malaysian Airways Flight 370 to go missing, and in this regard Interpol is making all needed resources available to help relevant authorities in Malaysia and elsewhere find out what happened. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with the families, loved ones and friends of the 239 passengers and crew on board,” said Noble.
“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,” said Noble.
“Now, we have a real case where the world is speculating whether the stolen passport holders were terrorists, while INTERPOL is asking why only a handful of countries worldwide are taking care to make sure that persons possessing stolen passports are not boarding international flights,” he added.
Interpol predicts that the world will witness global air travel as high as 1.5 billion passengers by in just three years.
But not all nations appear derelict in using Interpol's database. According to the agency, the United States law enforcement agencies have searched Interpol's database more 250 million times per year. British law enforcement checks the database more than 120 million times a year and the United Arab Republic more than 50 million times annually.
In the Interpol statement, Secretary General Ronald Noble stated:
“If Malaysia Airways 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. We would know that stolen passports were not used by any of the passengers to board that flight.
“For the sake of innocent passengers who go through invasive security measures prior to boarding flights in order to get to their destination safely, I sincerely hope that governments and airlines worldwide will learn from the tragedy of missing flight MH 370 and begin to screen all passengers’ passports prior to allowing them to board flights. Doing so will indeed take us a step closer to ensuring safer travel.”