Concern over passport fraud
Interpol chief fears stolen documents could be used by terrorists
DAVOS: The biggest travel threat facing the world now, according to the chief of Interpol, is passport fraud – the millions of stolen documents that could be used by terrorists or criminals to travel worldwide.
Airport body scanners, embraced by many in the aftermath of the attempted Christmas Day aeroplane bombing, are a misguided solution to travel threats, Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble said on Thursday.
“The greatest threat in the world is that last year there were 500 million inter national air arrivals worldwide in which travel documents were not compared against Interpol databases,” he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
“Right now on our database we have over 11m stolen or lost passports,” he said. “These passports are being used, fraudulently altered and being given to terrorists, war criminals, drug traffickers, human traffickers.”
The solution, he said, was better intelligence, and better intelligence sharing among countries.
Many US airports use the bodyscanning machines and airports in other countries have been adopting them since Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on December 25 on the Detroit-bound flight.
But Noble questioned “the amount of money and resources that go into these (body-scanning) machines.” He cited a case two weeks ago in a Caribbean country in which five people were arrested carrying European passports. The passports were found to be stolen – one stolen back in 2001. The five had “definite links to crime, organised crime and human trafficking but no definite links to terrorism”, he said.
He said US authorities were recognising the threat of passport fraud. In 2006 US authorities scanned the Interpol database about 2 000 times, while last year they did so 78m times. They came up with 4 000 people travelling on stolen or lost passports.
Intelligence experts have cast doubt on the usefulness of the socalled no-fly lists of suspects shared among airports worldwide, saying that criminals could change their names or make simple name spelling changes that rendered them untrackable.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will donate $10 billion over the next decade to research new vaccines and bring them to the world's poorest countries, the Microsoft co-founder and his wife said yesterday.
Calling upon governments and business to also contribute, they said the money will produce higher immunisation rates and aims to make sure that 90 percent of children are immunised against dangerous diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia in poorer nations.
“We must make this the decade of vaccines,” Bill Gates said in a statement. – Sapa-AP
KICKER: Bill Gates and his wife Melinda in Davos.