KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Interpol has rejected comments from a Malaysian minister that it takes too much time and is too difficult to check the international police agency's database to confirm if a passport has been stolen.
The issue arose because two passengers used stolen passports to board Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which went down in the southern Indian Ocean after going off-course for unknown reasons March 8 on a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board.
"Malaysia's decision not to consult Interpol's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database before allowing travelers to enter the country or board planes cannot be defended by falsely blaming technology or Interpol," said the agency, based in Lyon, France. "If there is any responsibility or blame for this failure, it rests solely with Malaysia's Immigration Department."
According to the Malay Mail Online, Interior Minister Zahid Hamidi told the Malaysian Parliament on Thursday that Interpol's database of lost passport records was "too large" and would be too much for Malaysia's database management system.
The presence of two people on the flight with stolen passports had raised speculation of a possible terrorist link, but it now thought they were asylum seekers attempting to get to Europe.
Interpol has a database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents, but most countries don't run passports through its computer system.
Malaysian officials say Flight 370 disappeared in the southern Indian Ocean, but searchers have been trying to find debris from the plane to provide physical evidence of that.