Missing MH370: Stolen passports users identified as Iranians

SEPANG - The two men travelling on stolen passports on board the missing MH370 plane have been identified as Iranians - Pouria Nour Mohammad Merhdad, 19, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Erza, 29.

Initial investigations by the local police showed that Pouria Nour was planning to migrate to Germany.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said he had embarked using the passport stolen from Austrian Christan Kozel.

"We found this out when his mother, who has been waiting for his arrival in Frankfurt, contacted the authorities to inform that he did not turn up," he said here yesterday.

Pouria Nour's mother was aware that her son had been travelling on a false passport, Khalid said.

The police, he added, had ruled out that the teenager had any terrorist connections.

"We have checked with our counterparts and believe that he is not likely to be a member of a terrorist group. He has never entered Malaysia prior to Feb 28," he said.

Police, he said, were also investigating the possibility that the Iranians could have bought the stolen passports in Kuala Lumpur. Both the passports had been reported stolen in Thailand over the past two years.

"We are also checking if they are part of a stolen passport syndicate," he said, dismissing talks that both the police and the Immigration Department had not utilised the Interpol's database on stolen passports.

"In this incident, we had to use prior intelligence to detect the two impostors. We work closely with Immigration but there are over 40 million stolen passports listed in the database," he said.

In Lyon, France, Interpol secretary-general Ronald K. Noble identified the second impostor as Delavar.

Noble said both Delavar and Pouri Nour had flown from Doha to Kuala Lumpur using Iranian passports.

The duo then switched to the stolen Austrian and Italian passports to board the MH370 flight. He did not elaborate how they obtained the documents, said Noble.

"There has been speculation about whether or not this was a terrorist attack. In the last 24 hours, you see the story changing but it has become more certain that these individuals are probably not terrorists," he said.

Neither Iranian is listed on the Interpol database.

Noble's version of events contrasts with that given by Immigration Department director-general Aloyah Mamat, who said Pouria Nour arrived at KLIA at 8.28pm on Feb 28 using Kozel's passport.

"He presented himself at counter K42 and produced his Austrian passport (P2979523)," she told a press conference.

She said Delavar arrived at KLIA at about 8.31pm on Feb 28, presenting himself at counter K49 and his Italian passport (YA3189197) under the name of Luigi Maraldi Luigi. He claimed he had arrived from Phuket.