Flight MH370

Malaysia Airlines flight 370

Interpol hits back at Malaysia's stolen passport database claims

Comments made by Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi saying passport checks through Interpol were 'slow' are contradicted by the international crime force

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 12:15pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 7:23am

Interpol has rebuked Malaysia after a senior politician criticised technology used by the international police agency as "slow" and an obstacle that hindered immigration checks.

Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid said Malaysia's immigration staff skipped checking against an international database for stolen passports because it was too slow.

The crime force - based in Lyons in France - said that Malaysia "cannot be defended by falsely blaming technology or Interpol. If there is any responsibility or blame for this failure, it rests solely with Malaysia's Immigration Department."

Ahmad made his comments last week in parliament, explaining how two Iranians managed to evade border-control checks to board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 8 using stolen passports.

The minister told parliament that Interpol's database of 40.2 million lost passports was too large, and said the country's immigration department did not have the infrastructure to handle the information.

Interpol said it did not understand why Ahmad chose to attack the crime-fighting agency, saying it took a fraction of a second to run a passport check against its globally sourced database.

Intense speculation over the disappearance of the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing initially led officials to fear terrorism as a cause of the Boeing 777's loss.

Before the flight's disappearance, Malaysia had never run a check against Interpol's database. In total, about 800 million searches were made last year, producing 60,000 successful alerts for the use of falsified or stolen documentation.

Interpol said neither the US, Britain nor Singapore had ever complained about the system being slow.

Ahmad said that Malaysia's immigration department matched "world class" standards when carrying out border controls checks.