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Interpol said today that no country checked the police agency's database that held information about two stolen passports used to board an ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight.
"Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol's databases," Interpol Secretary General Ronald K Noble said in a statement.
Even though the Interpol has been sounding the alarm about passport fraud for years, people have managed to board flights a billion times without having their passports checked against its stolen-documents records, Interpol said.
In a sharply worded criticism of shortcomings of national passport controls, the Lyon, France-based agency also said it was examining other suspect passports and working to determine the true identities of the passengers who used the stolen passports to board the Boeing 777 that disappeared yesterday - less than an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for Beijing.
Information about the thefts of an Austrian passport in 2012 and an Italian passport last year was entered into Interpol's database after they were stolen in Thailand, but that no checks of the stolen passports were made "by any country" before the flight yesterday, the police body said.
"Unfortunately," it added, few member countries systematically search its databases to see whether stolen travel documents or passports were being used by passengers.
Noble said he hoped "that governments and airlines worldwide will learn from the tragedy of missing flight MH370 and begin to screen all passengers' passports prior to allowing them to board flights."