KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 ― The story of how two Iranians ended up on the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 using stolen passports was revealed in detail for the first time today by Malaysia's Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
But amid doubts over Malaysia's ability to secure its borders, Zahid also maintained that the country's immigration department had matched "world standards" when carrying out checks on those entering and exiting the country.
In Parliament today, Zahid listed the chronological account of how the two Iranians travelled from their home country to Doha, Qatar and then Phuket, Thailand where they bought the stolen passports believed to be priced at US$10,000 (RM32,938) each.
He confirmed that the two left Thailand and entered Malaysia using the stolen passports, but declined to elaborate when Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad asked if this meant the Thai authorities had "failed" to detect the duo.
Zahid also disclosed that investigators had found the hotel the duo stayed in Kuala Lumpur immediately after the MH370 passenger manifest list was released.
Based on close-circuit television camera (CCTV) recordings, investigators had then quizzed those who were in contact with the Iranians before they left Malaysia on the Beijing-bound MH370.
But he repeated the probe's conclusion that both Iran nationals were neither "criminals" nor "terrorists".
"The two are not terrorists, not asylum seekers. They wanted to stay in Europe," he said, noting that the stolen Austrian and Italian passports would have enabled the duo to enter European Union (EU) countries without applying for visas.
Zahid said the Iranian duo did not obtain visas from China ― as is usually required ― because they were merely passing through the country to their final destination in Europe.
After defending Malaysia's immigration department as adhering to international standards, Zahid also gave details on how immigration officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport had allowed the two Iranians to enter and leave the country according to standard operating procedures (SOP).
Upon entry, immigration officials found that the Iranians' faces matched the photographs in the stolen passports and quizzed them, Zahid said.
When the duo wanted to leave for Beijing, officials checked immigration's records and cleared them after finding that all was in order with their visiting passes, which were still valid, he added.
Zahid said local immigration records showed that the duo had entered the country for the first time, indicating that they would not have managed to evade detection if they were re-entering the country using false identities.
"If someone had entered Malaysia before and was present at the second time using travel documents that has differing identity information with that used previously, the biometrics system will be able to detect," he said.
He said the stolen passports used by the duo were genuine documents, but also pointed out that passports issued by some countries lacked security features such as biometrics and barcodes.
Passports issued by Malaysia, on the other hand, was of the best standards globally, he said.
But Zahid also said the lack of such features in passports of foreign visitors could be addressed with the use of Advance Passenger Clearing System.- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/home-minister-reveals-how-two-iranians-ended-up-on-mh370#sthash.2c4ST3ql.dpuf
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