Two people named on a list of passengers on board missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 were not on the plane, but both had reported their passports stolen.
Foreign ministry officials in Rome and Vienna confirmed on Saturday night that the names of two nationals listed on the manifest of the flight matched those of passports reported stolen in Thailand.
Italian foreign ministry officials said that Luigi Maraldi, originally believed to have boarded the plane in Kuala Lumpur, was traveling in Thailand when the Beijing-bound flight took off at just after midnight on Friday.
He had reported his passport stolen last August, said a foreign ministry functionary, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Italian news agency ANSA says Maraldi called home after hearing reports that someone with his name was on the plane.
“He is alright, he is on vacation, on the beach,” his mother told the Italian national TV broadcaster RAI.
Similarly, Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss confirmed that a name listed on the manifest matches an Austrian passport reported stolen two years ago in Phuket, Thailand. Weiss would not confirm the identity, although Britain’s Daily Mirror website named him as Christian Kozel, aged 30.
The revelations will raise questions over security at Kuala Lumpur’s airport, and how the stolen passports were able to be used by people other than their rightful owners.
At a press conference on Saturday evening an airline spokesman refused to rule out terrorism as a possible reason behind the very sudden disappearance of the flight.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak also refused to rule out a terrorist act.
China Southern, who jointly shared the route with Malaysian Airlines in what is termed in the industry a ‘code share’, said in a statement it had sold tickets to one Austrian and one Italian.
The airline confirmed it had sold seven tickets in all, including one to a Chinese passenger, one Dutch, 2 Ukranian and one Malaysian.
A total of 239 people were on board the flight when it vanished two hours after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. Twelve crew members and 227 passengers, aged two to 79 years, were named on a list of those on board released by the airline.
The Boeing 777-200ER gave air traffic controllers no indication of any problem before vanishing from radar screens.
An air search for survivors was called off on Saturday night and will resume at daylight.
Vietnamese officials said planes had spotted twin oil slicks in the sea and were sending boats to investigate.