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10 July 2009 - Media release

Man arrested after INTERPOL database detects passport stolen eight years ago

LYON, France – A man attempting to enter South Africa was arrested at Johannesburg airport after a check against INTERPOL’s databases revealed that he was travelling on a blank passport stolen in Pakistan eight years ago.

The document was one of a batch of 2,000 stolen from a regional office in Abbottabad in December 2001 and registered in INTERPOL’s global Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database by Pakistan, one of the first countries to contribute to the database following its creation in 2002.

The stolen passport was identified thanks to technical solutions deployed throughout South Africa by INTERPOL which enable frontline officers to run direct checks against the SLTD database. The database currently contains nearly 19 million entries – of which 10.5 million are passports – submitted by 145 countries.

Linking border points to INTERPOL’s databases is one of a number of security measures implemented by South Africa as part of preparations for two international sporting events: the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

“There is no time limit on the use of stolen blank passports which are among the most valuable tools available to terrorists and criminals wanting to travel anonymously,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services, Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“This case demonstrates the importance of extending real-time access to INTERPOL databases to officers at strategic locations, in order to strengthen both national and international security.

“If Pakistan had not registered these documents and if South Africa had not made sure that all travel documents being used to enter their country were checked against INTERPOL’s database, then this man would have passed totally undetected across the border and remained untraceable,” added Mr Louboutin.

Police in South Africa are trying to determine the man’s true identity after a fingerprint check against INTERPOL’s database did not result in any matches. The prints are now being circulated among INTERPOL’s 187 member countries to establish if any matches can be made in national databases.

The individual is currently in custody in South Africa and will appear before the courts on 5 August.