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Sunday 9 March 2014

Malaysia Airlines And The Fake Passports

As the search continues for the Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777 which vanished from radar screens on Friday while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the questions are piling up: two oil slicks have been found, but no wreckage as yet. How can an aircraft of that size leave so little trace? Why has no signal been picked up from the flight’s “black boxes”? And then there are the passengers.
It has been widely reported that four of the names of those on board were regarded as “suspect”, but now this has been reduced to two. One of those is a Chinese national. In addition, five passengers who had checked in luggage did not board flight MH370. The carrier has asserted that their luggage was therefore removed from the hold before the aircraft was closed up.

But the most worrying aspect is the two individuals travelling on stolen passports: assuming the names of Italian citizen Luigi Maraldi – who has been issued a replacement in the meantime – and Austrian Christian Kozel. They booked their tickets the day before the flight, and booked them together, obtaining consecutive ticket numbers. They also booked flights on from Beijing.

And this is where it gets interesting: both men would only have been transiting Beijing Airport, and so would not have had to apply for visas to enter China, a process which would have almost certainly led to the discovery that they were travelling on stolen passports. Their flight onward was to Amsterdam, and as EU nationals they would not have needed any visa to enter the Netherlands.

Nor would they have needed a visa to travel to their final destinations, Frankfurt am Main and Copenhagen. So there would have been little chance, provided the photos in the passports were a good likeness, of discovery. But here is where it gets truly strange: why would anyone travel from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam via Beijing in the first place, when direct flights are offered?

Both KLM, with whom the two were booked to fly on from Beijing, and Malaysia fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam. Yet these two individuals booked – together – to make the journey via Beijing, with a ten hour stopover. And why book with China Southern, the codeshare partner of Malaysia Airlines, when the booking was made in Malaysia? Moreover, why pay in cash with Thai baht?

While the search for the missing aircraft continues, there will also be a search via CCTV and elsewhere to find out exactly who was impersonating Maraldi and Kozel. And, while that search goes on, action needs to be taken to give air carriers and security agencies better information on stolen passports. These two were not on board that flight by coincidence.

Then steps can be taken to stop the next such attempt getting through.


SecretsFromWithin said...

You may be right about Maraldi and Kozel, but it does not really make sense that they were indeed planning on boarding MH370. Why did they back out? Or were their passports just used and they had no plans themselves so the itinerary is that of the two using the stolen passports?

Tim Fenton said...

The two passports had been stolen some time ago. So yes, the passports were used and the itinerary is of the two people using them.

Anonymous said...

This is where the 'terrorists' theory falls apart: if they were planning to blow the plane in-flight, why buy the tickets together? Wouldn't it make more sense to purchase separately, to avoid the risk of being suspected? Traveling on one stolen passport is risky; traveling together on two stolen passports is even riskier. And, why bother with the fine-grained post-Beijing itinerary? One was headed to Denmark, the other to Germany? Why bother, if they weren't planning on reaching Beijing? They could have ended their journeys in Amsterdam.

Much more likely that they were simply two guys, trying to travel discreetly to separate destinations in the EU on stolen passports, who happened, like everyone else on MH370, to be on the wrong plane at the wrong time.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone missing someone from the flight whose names are not on the manifest but knew they were flying to Denmark and Germany and have not arrived? That would answer your hypothesis that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and who they really were.

Anonymous said...

Inconvenient China Southern flights are often the cheapest option between Asia and Europe. It doesn't seem all that odd to me.