The Malaysian government has launched a terrorism investigation and the United States has sent in the FBI amid revelations two men boarded the plane flight MH370 using stolen passports.
Two European names – Christian Kozel, an Austrian, and Italian Luigi Maraldi – were listed on the passenger manifest of the flight but neither man was on the plane, and both had their passports stolen in Thailand over the past two years.
Interpol has revealed “at least two passports” that were listed on its Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database were used by passengers on board the flight.
Interpol’s secretary-general Ronald Noble has said no checks were conducted by authorities in Malaysia or any other country about the two passports before the plane took off.
“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,” he said.
Thai police have said they are investigating a “passport ring” after it emerged that tickets were booked in Maraldi and Kozel’s names on March 6 this year.
They were issued in the Thai city of Pattaya, a popular beach resort south of the capital Bangkok.
There were no distress signals before the flight lost contact with air traffic controllers, and on Monday Vietnamese searchers said they’d spotted possible aircraft debris.
A Vietnamese official says two broken objects, which appeared to be from an aircraft, were found about 80km southwest of Tho Chu Island, a small archipelago off the southwest tip of the country.
Australia has sent two RAAF aircraft to join the search.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the issue of passport security and control had long been a global concern.
She said overseas authorities were investigating how many passengers were travelling on false or questionable passports.
“There may be no connection at all but nevertheless it is a worrying development,” she told ABC Radio.
Immigration and Border Protection Minister Scott Morrison said Australian officials had access to international lists for stolen passports and that a check was done when people left Australia.
He told Macquarie Radio on Monday that Australia was seeking to work with other countries in the region to strengthen their systems.
“I’ve always said if we have stronger borders in the region we have stronger borders in Australia as well.”
Mr Morrison said people stole passports for a variety of reasons including smuggling and other criminal purposes.
“Who knows what purpose has been in place on this occasion.”
He said the issue was one reason authorities should go towards microchip passports which had biodata in them to improve the level of checks.