I did an interview on TV 3’s Firstline show regarding the security concerns raised by the presence of two passengers with stolen passports on the plane. I also discuss the fact that China Southern Airways, which signed an exclusive sweetheart visa liberalization deal for its premium frequent flyers with the National government, was the issuer of the tickets purchased by the passport fraudsters as well as two others now under investigation. The lapses in security vetting happened at several levels and raise questions about air traffic security in Malaysia as well as with regard to China Southern.
Readers may recall an earlier link to an essay I wrote about the sale and bartering of so-called tokens of sovereignty, of which passports are just one (the earlier linked essay focused on flags of convenience in the shipping industry).
Do you think the flight succumbed to an act of terror, or was this use of stolen passports due to some kind of unrelated dirty business?
Why are tickets with subsequent numbers a security alert? Surely if they were bought at the same time from the same retailer this is normal?
My first inclination was to see the stolen passports as being coincidental to the crash, with the passports being used by unlucky criminals. Now I am not too sure.
The consecutive ticket numbers would by themselves not be too much of an issue. But the fact that the tickets were purchased two days before the flight, were one way, were paid for in cash (Thai Baht) and were bought by unrelated individuals who were headed to separate end destination countries that were not those of their passports, should have at least raised eyebrows, which should have triggered a passport serial number check on the part of the travel agent and issuing airline.
Given that the tickets were sold in Pattaya, a most unsavory place (although favorite of some NZ and European males), the lack of checks by the travel agency selling the tickets is unsurprising. But China Southern should have checked the passport numbers, as should have the counter agents at Malaysian Airlines in KL and airport immigration staff at the border control checkpoints leading to the boarding gates.
If the impostors came over land or stayed for more than a transit lounge visit in Malaysia, then other Malaysian border control agents were derelict in their duties as well. If they originated their travel with a flight out of Thailand on a different set of tickets, then Thai authorities were also remiss in doing the required passport checks.
But then again we are talking about Thailand and Malaysia, where organized crime and officialdom often work hand in glove rather than against each other. Perhaps that is why there is such a lack of information coming from the Malaysian government–they may have much to hide.
Bad guys buy tickets in Pattaya using false passport info.
Then use their legit passports & tickets to travel to KL.
Transit lounge to departure gate.
Check by KL staff at gate does not access any database. Basically they check ticket name against passport name (often I have had staff not really look at me as they are under pressure).
Why go thru this charade-I have no idea.
Your scenario could well be true. My impression is that airline staff and border control agents are under pressure to process passengers on the way out as fast as possible, and keying in everyone’s passport numbers at the counters/checkpoints causes delays and consequent hassles. Border controls tend to be more rigorous upon entry rather than exit so that may be the gap in the system.
Looks like you were generally right Baldman. Two Iranian nationals fly from Doha to KL/Thailand on real passports, then use the stolen ones to board the MAS flight. Apparently they were asylum seekers. Bummer for them!
Looks like your first instinct was correct, Pablo.
The NZ Australia link is pretty tight. I once landed in Brisbane with my second passport, Peter Quixote, Customs said you interesting, when I got back to NZ there was a real fuss, they read my diary, weighed my shoes, looked at my teeth, patted me down, all sorts of stuff.
Can anybody sniff Iran here. Direction of flight,Iran operatives. Have we seen this before