SEPANG, Mar 10 â€” Malaysian authorities today said they could conclusively say that the two passengers who boarded flight MH370 using stolen passports were not Asian, though it has not brought them any closer to discovering their identities.
Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Razak said that investigators scrutinising the CCTV footage and screen captures of the two suspects confirmed that the suspects were not â€œAsian-lookingâ€ males.
â€œDo you know a footballer named Balotelli? They look like that,â€ he said at the dayâ€™s last press conference, referring to Italian national striker Mario Balotelli, who was born in Italy to Ghanaian parents.
There is intense speculation that an act of terrorism may have led to the airlinerâ€™s disappearance at 1.30am Saturday, especially after it was discovered that two passengers were travelling on passports stolen separately from an Italian and Austrian.
Despite the Balotelli reference, the DCA chief later said that he was not in a position to describe the appearance of the men or to infer their nationalities based on the CCTV footage and screen captures as investigators believe they may be part of a wider passport theft ring.
Azharuddin initially agreed when asked to verify if the suspects were â€œblackâ€, but later backtracked when asked to confirm an earlier report quoting inspector-general of police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar as saying that one of the two passengers with stolen passports had been identified.
Azharuddin stressed that from the security aspect, the two unidentified passengers had complied with the entire set of international protocols from baggage check through check-in and boarding.
â€œI think they are not Asian… as I said, there is the angle that investigators are looking at involving a stolen passport syndicate,â€ he said, declining to explain further.
When asked about the dearth of information coming from Malaysian authorities compared to the regular updates being pumped out of neighbouring Vietnam, Azharuddin said they preferred to make sure the details are verified before sharing it with the media.
â€œWhat Vietnam did is report to the media whatever they found, and when we are informed of the reports we immediately contact our counterparts in Vietnam.
â€œEvery time we do that, they deny the reports…So we have to be very, very careful when we go to the media. We have to verify, because we donâ€™t want to give any false hope,â€ he stressed.