Missing MH370: Iranian duo in KL a week before boarding MH370

Missing MH370: Iranian duo in KL a week before boarding MH370
This reproduction of Malaysian police handout photographs shows 19-year-old Iranian Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad (left) and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Reza, 29, who both boarded the missing MH370 flight using stolen European passports.

SEPANG, Malaysia - A week before they boarded Flight MH370 and disappeared alongside 237 other passengers and crew, Mr Pouria Nour Mohammad Mehrdad and Mr Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza arrived in the Malaysian capital together and cleared immigration without problems.

The two Iranians reportedly migrants headed for Europe. What they did in the one week in Malaysia, however, remains a mystery.

Last Friday, they used stolen passports belonging to an Austrian and an Italian and successfully boarded the Malaysia Airlines flight bound for Beijing. Photographs the two men took together before their flight suggested that they knew each other.

Investigations by the Malaysian immigration authority revealed that both men had arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 28, said Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Asmawati Ahmad on Tuesday.

At about 8.28pm, Mr Pouria, 19, produced the stolen Austrian passport for clearance at an immigration counter. His face matched the image on the stolen passport and he was issued a 90-day social visit pass.

Just minutes later, Mr Delavar, 29, arrived at immigration with the stolen Italian passport. He told the immigration officer at the counter that he had arrived on a flight from Phuket.

However, Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble at a press conference in Lyon, France, gave a slightly different account of the two men's movements on Tuesday.

He said they had travelled from Qatar's capital, Doha, on their Iranian passports to Malaysia, and switched to stolen Italian and Austrian passports to board the Malaysia Airlines flight.

The two men were believed to have stayed with Mr Pouria's friend while in Kuala Lumpur. Two days after the plane went missing last Saturday, an anonymous Iranian told the BBC Persian service that he had met one of the them at high school, believed to be Mr Pouria.

He said both men stayed with him and he had accompanied them to book their flight. He later found out that they were going to travel on stolen passports.

The Iranian said in a phone interview from Malaysia: "His friend (Mr Delavar) was dyeing his beard and hair, and was checking the colour to match with the picture of a passport. He was making himself look like the photo in the passport."

The friend said he sent both men off at the airport and his last contact with them was at 11.30pm, when they told him they were waiting to board the plane.

On Tuesday, ACP Asmawati said the immigration authority did not have prior records of the two men's biometrics as it was the first time they had entered Malaysia. Their biometrics - that is, fingerprints - were taken on the day they arrived, he added.

When they departed last Friday, their biometrics matched those taken on arrival. It was unclear how their stolen passports had been tampered with.

Malaysia's police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said the authority found out Mr Pouria had travelled on a stolen passport when his mother contacted them.

"His mother was expecting him to arrive in Frankfurt. When he didn't arrive, she contacted us. That's how we knew he is the one travelling with the stolen passport," he said, adding that Mr Pouria's mother knew that her son was travelling with a stolen passport.

joycel@sph.com.sg


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