Passports stolen from Finnish tourists have also been used for illegal travel, according to Kim Kuivalainen, Deputy Head of Passport and Visa Unit of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Illegal travel on stolen passports was in the news over the weekend when it came out that two passengers on the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing were using passports stolen from Austrian and Italian men.
Both passports had been stolen when the men were travelling in Thailand.
Kuivalainen considers it likely that the passports were the old-fashioned type in which photos are not tamper-proof. Like all European travel documents, new Italian and Austrian passports are difficult to forge as they have all state-of-the-art security features.
“My guess is these were stolen passports that were sold on in the black market. They were unlikely to be new passports, which carry fingerprints and digital pictures,” Kuivalainen speculates, stressing that he does not know the details of the case.
“If the passports were of the older type, then there wouldn’t have been fingerprint information to check. It would have been possible to change the photos, allowing also people of Asian background to use them.”
The passport belonging to a 30-year-old Austrian man was stolen two years ago, and after the plane went missing the local police found the passport’s rightful owner safe and sound at home.
The 37-year-old Italian passport owner phoned his family from Thailand to tell them he was safe. According to the newspaper Corriere Della Sera, his passport was stolen in August.
According to Kuivalainen, Finnish embassies do not compile statistics on Finnish passports reported lost or stolen overseas but he believes that the number is on the increase as people travel more than before.
“I’m sure Finnish passports have also been used for illegal travel. New passports make this much more difficult,” he says.
Lasse Kerkelä – HS
Niina Woolley – HT
Image: Pihla Lehmusjoki / Lehtikuva