Two on missing Malaysia flight used stolen European passports
Italian and Austrian men, listed as passengers on Malaysian Airlines flight, had passports stolen in Thailand.
Foreign ministry officials in Rome and Vienna confirmed Saturday that names of two nationals listed on the manifest of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight match passports reported stolen in Thailand.
A passenger manifest issued by Malaysia Airlines after its plane went missing off the Vietnamese coast with 227 passengers and 12 crew included the names of Christian Kozel, 30, from Austria, and Luigi Maraldi, 37, from Italy.
Neither European was on the plane, which disappeared Saturday less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing, officials said. The Italian was traveling in Thailand and the Austrian was located by police in his native country.
The father of the Italian man told The Associated Press that his son's passport had been stolen a year and a half ago while traveling in Thailand.
"He deposited it with rental car agency, and when he returned the car it was gone," Walter Maraldi said by telephone from his home in the northern Emilia-Romagna region.
Walter Maraldi said authorities could not tell him whether the stolen passport or a counterfeit copy was used by a passenger to board the aircraft.
The father said his son Luigi Maraldi, 37, called his parents from Thailand to tell them he was fine after hearing news reports that an Italian with his name was on board the missing airplane.
Meanwhile, Maraldi's mother told Reuters her son's passport had been lost, presumed stolen, in Phuket in 2013.
"He lost his passport in Thailand, and he reported it to the authorities... Maybe the one who stole it came to a bad end, we don't know, they have to investigate," Renata Lucchi, the mother of 37-year-old Luigi Maraldi, told Reuters.
Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss confirmed that a name listed on the manifest matches an Austrian passport reported stolen two years ago in Thailand. Weiss would not confirm the Austrian traveler's identity.
"We have no information on who might have stolen the passport," Weiss said.
The Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "It's interesting that there were two cases on the same plane but we just know that our Austrian was not on board.
"Someone used a document to get on the plane. But whoever used that, we have nothing to say about that, we don't know, that would be for the authorities to look into," he said.
Late Saturday it was reported that the United States is sending FBI agents and experts to help investigate the jet's disappearance.
According to the LA Times, FBI agents will help review video from the Kuala Lumpur airport for images of departing passengers that can be checked in the bureau's vast counter-terrorism database.
At least three US citizens, and an infant who could be a US citizen, were on board the plane. "This gives us entree" to the case, the official told the LA Times, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The disclosure that two people on board were travelling on stolen passports raised questions about a possible terrorist attack, but US intelligence officials earlier told US media that stolen passports "don't necessarily say to us that this was a terrorism act."
On Sunday it was reported that Malaysian authorities are investigating the identities of at least two other passengers on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight, in addition to two who were found to be using stolen passports.
Investigators were verifying the identities with the relevant embassies in Malaysia, said a security official, who has knowledge of the investigation and declined to be identified. The passengers being checked had all bought their tickets through China Southern Airlines, the official said.
Like us on Facebook and get articles directly in your news feed