Mistaken Identities And Stolen Passports Aboard Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight
An Italian and an Austrian were listed among the missing passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370—but both are alive, and the victims of a curious identity theft by imposters who bought their tickets for the missing flight together.
Thirty-seven-year-old Luigi Maraldi of Cesena, Italy, was as surprised as anyone to read that he was among the missing passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which vanished from radar about a third of the way through a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing during the early hours of Saturday morning. His Italian passport number had been stolen in Thailand several months ago, and he had reported it to the Italian authorities, who issued him a replacement. Maraldi, who was back in Thailand on a working holiday when he saw his name on news reports, immediately called his father, Walter, in Italy. Walter had not yet registered that his son was listed among the potential crash victims.
“Ciao, dad," the younger Maraldi said, according to Italian press reports. "Have you heard the news about the missing airplane? Don’t worry, it wasn’t me who was listed as a passenger on board. I don’t know why my name is on the list, or what happened, but I’m ok. I’m in Thailand."
Italy’s foreign ministry confirmed the case of mistaken identity. “We’ve spoken to Maraldi and he is alive and well,” a foreign ministry spokesperson tweeted.
The use of Maraldi’s stolen passport, and the stolen passport of another European—Austrian national Christian Kozel, who was also erroneously listed as a missing passenger—have called into question whether foul play was involved in the apparent air disaster. The use of Maraldi’s stolen passport, and the stolen passport of another European—Austrian national Christian Kozel, who was also erroneously listed as a missing passenger—have called into question whether foul play was involved in the apparent air disaster. Revelations early Sunday morning that the two imposters bought their tickets together based on the sequential issue numbers and date and place of purchase have bolstered the theory, though until the aircraft is found, it is impossible to know exactly why the plane went down. The two passport thieves could have realistically been involved in some other criminal activity that had nothing to do with the ill-fated flight. Investigators will have to first find the plane and then try to identify who the passport thieves really are.
According to Malaysian newspaper Malay Mail, Malaysia’s deputy transport minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi told reporters that they were taking the news of the passport thefts seriously. “The matter is still under review,” he said.
The Boeing 777, with 239 passengers and crew on board, including four Americans (one of them reportedly an infant), disappeared from the radar two hours after take-off. No distress call was made, and weather was apparently not problematic in the area. Two 12-mile long oil slicks were spotted in the Gulf of Thailand, but so far no other possible trace of the aircraft has been found.