I'm fine in Phuket, says Maraldi

KUALA LUMPUR - The Italian citizen who lost his passport while in Phuket last year is surprised that his name turned up in the flight manifest of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Luigi Maraldi, 37, who is currently in Phuket for a vacation, said he had met with the Thai police and Immi-gration Department, as well as officials from the Italian embassy following the discovery that his identity may have been stolen by an individual aboard the flight which went off the radar at 1.30am on Saturday.

"I'm okay. I'm still fine and going to the beach. I don't know when all this began. Everyone has been trying to call me including reporters from Italy and I think I would like to just have my privacy," he said yesterday.

"I was pretty shocked when I saw them at my door, and was relieved to find out that although I was dead, at least it was only on paper."

Maraldi reported his passport missing on Aug 1 last year when he deposited it with a vehicle rental agency in Patong and was told it had gone missing when he came to return the vehicle, according to The Washington Post.

He managed to get a temporary travel document back to Italy where he obtained a new passport.

The report of his missing document was entered into the Interpol database.

Maraldi called his parents to let them know he was safe when he heard the news of the crash and his name on the manifest.

It was reported that a second passenger on flight MH370 had also used a stolen passport, this time that of Austrian national Christan Kozel, who was confirmed to be alive by authorities.

Kozel told Austrian newspaper De Standard that his passport was stolen when he visited Thailand in 2012.

Austrian ambassador to Malaysia Christophe Ceska described the case as "exceptional".

He said the embassy was extremely careful in issuing new passports, and that there was no widespread use of illegally obtained Austrian passports.

"This is the first such case I've encountered after 15 years with the Foreign Ministry," he said.

"He claimed his passport was stolen two years ago while he was in Bangkok," said Ceska. "The embassy there issued a second one."

"Our citizens are entitled to a second passport when they lose their first. Sometimes people do claim they've lost their passport to get a second one, but that's something very difficult to work against."