PARIS (Reuters) - The international police agency Interpol on Friday rejected a Malaysian suggestion that Interpol's database for checking passport was too cumbersome.
Interpol said that although several other countries used the database millions of times each year, the Malaysian immigration department had not checked plane passengers' passports against its database at all this year prior to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on March 8.
The agency's statement followed comments made by Malaysia's Interior Minister Zahid Hamidi to parliament on Wednesday that the burdensome nature of the Interpol database slowed down immigration checks.
Zahid said Interpol's database of 40.2 million lost passports was "too large" and would overwhelm Malaysia's database management system.
"Furthermore, Interpol's information of lost (passports) may slow down the process of immigration checks at counters," Zahid was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail Online.
Interpol, based in Lyon, France, said it takes just 0.2 seconds for its database to reveal to authorities whether a passport is listed as stolen. No member country had ever complained the process was too slow, it added.
"Malaysia's decision not to consult INTERPOL's Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database before allowing travellers to enter the country or board planes cannot be defended by falsely blaming technology or INTERPOL. If there is any responsibility or blame for this failure, it rests solely with Malaysia's Immigration Department," it said.
Two passengers with stolen Austrian and Italian passports were able to board the plane, which vanished over the South China Sea on March 8. However, authorities do not believe they were responsible for whatever happened to it.
The plane, which has still not been located, went missing on March 8 with 239 people on board.
(Reporting by Nathalie Huet and Alexandria Sage, Editing by Angus MacSwan)