Con­cern over pass­port fraud

In­ter­pol chief fears stolen doc­u­ments could be used by ter­ror­ists

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

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

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

KICKER: Bill Gates and his wife Melinda in Davos.

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