Malaysian authorities have revealed that one of the two men who used stolen passports to board the missing Malaysian Airlines plane looked like Mario Balotelli.
As it emerged an Iranian businessman known only as Mr Ali was understood to have booked the tickets for the two passengers using the stolen passports, the men who boarded the plane were said to have not been of ‘Asian appearance’.
Malaysia’s police chief was quoted by local media as saying that one of the men had been identified.
Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman declined to confirm this, but said authorities were looking at the possibility the men were connected to a stolen passport syndicate.
Asked by a reporter what they looked like ‘roughly’, he said: ‘Do you know of a footballer by the name of (Mario) Balotelli? He is an Italian. Do you know how he looks like?’
A reporter then asked, ‘Is he black?’ and the aviation chief replied, ‘Yes’.
Authorities had today still found no trace of the missing plane despite searches by ships from six navies and dozens of military aircraft.
A Thai travel agent who arranged the tickets for the two passengers has now said she had booked them on the flight via Beijing because they were the cheapest tickets, it has been reported.
The travel agent in the resort of Pattaya said an Iranian business contact she knew only as ‘Mr Ali’ had asked her to book tickets for the two men on March 1.
She had initially booked them on other airlines but those reservations expired and on March 6, Mr Ali had asked her to book them again.
She told the Financial Times she did not think Mr Ali, who paid her in cash and booked tickets with her regularly, was linked to terrorism.
The massive search is mainly in a 50-nautical mile radius from where the last contact with the plane was made, midway between Malaysia’s east coast and the southern tip of Vietnam.