The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 9, 2014

Interpol: Passports on flights must be checked

(Continued)

The declared thefts of the two passports used — one of Austrian national Christian Kozel in 2012, and one of Luigi Maraldi of Italy last year — were entered into Interpol's database after they were stolen in Thailand, the police body said.

Interpol also said it and national investigators were examining other suspicious passports and working to determine the true identities of those who used the stolen passports to board the Malaysia Airlines flight.

In November, in yet another talk on the subject, Noble said that four of every 10 international passengers are still not screened against the Interpol database, which produced more than 60,000 hits in 2012.

Some countries have taken the threat more seriously than others. In 2006, U.S. authorities scanned the Interpol database about 2,000 times — but did so 78 million times just three years later.

Interpol, which has 190 member countries, says rising international travel is creating a new market for identity theft, and bogus passports have found a market among many people: Illegal immigrants, terrorists, drug runners — pretty much anyone looking to travel unnoticed.

Sometimes, authorities are outmatched: Ticket-buying regulations and border control techniques vary from country to country, and an Interpol official says there's no one-size-fits-all explanation why some countries don't use its database systematically. The U.S, U.K. and the United Arab Emirates are the biggest users, Interpol says.

In Thailand, where immigration police last year caught a Thai man with 5,000 fake passports, officials say international cooperation helps battle the plague — but passport forgers are now using advanced technology.

"It must take great skills and expertise by our officers to detect the fake passports and visa stamps because the system cannot detect them the whole time," said Maj. Gen. Warawuth Thaweechaikarn, commander of the Immigration Police's investigative division. Thai authorities also say some new techniques include finding a lookalike to match the passport, or altering the image on the passport to look like the holder.

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