Passport checks here tap Interpol database

LESSON FROM MH370: These kinds of events show the importance of enhancing border security… and the importance of having the technology accessible to all law-enforcement and all immigration officers. - Interpol's Ms Julia Viedma (above), on the case
LESSON FROM MH370: These kinds of events show the importance of enhancing border security… and the importance of having the technology accessible to all law-enforcement and all immigration officers. - Interpol's Ms Julia Viedma (above), on the case of the two Iranians who illegally boarded Malaysia Airlines MH370

S'pore is one of 70 nations that cross-check agency's stolen, lost passport data

Singapore is one of about 70 member states of Interpol that conduct border checks by cross-checking against the global police agency's database of stolen and lost travel documents.

Most of Interpol's 190 member countries do not do so, however, and this has to be improved, an Interpol official told reporters here.

If more countries got onboard with integrated cross-checking of border information, it would be easier to avoid cases such as that of the two Iranians who illegally boarded Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, said Ms Julia Viedma, Interpol director of international partnerships and development unit.

"These kinds of events show the importance of enhancing border security… and the importance of having the technology accessible to all law-enforcement and all immigration officers to be able to cross-check all bio-data," she said at a press conference yesterday.

The database has information on more than 40 million passports in its logs - 167 countries have reported information on stolen or lost travel documents to it.

More than 800 million searches were run on the database last year, resulting in 67,000 positive hits.

"So 67,000 times in 2013, a passport that was not accredited as good, that maybe had been used in a fraudulent way, was detected in the world, thanks to this cross-checking of information," said Ms Viedma, who joined Interpol in 1998 after a decade in the Spanish National Police.

Having managed seven Interpol regional bureaus in Africa, Asia and America, Ms Viedma is well-positioned in her current role leading the transition support office that is setting up the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore.

This is being built to complement Interpol's headquarters in Lyon, France, and to enhance its presence in Asia. Singapore was chosen in part because of its solid law enforcement infrastructure, said Ms Viedma.

"We get great support from the Singapore Government," she said, adding that the authorities are providing funds, technology, expertise and staff. These include Singapore Police Force officers, who will be in "all the different areas of expertise in the building".

For the complex, Interpol is also recruiting national police and law-enforcement officers from member states and hiring from the private sector, primarily in the area of cyber-security, the breaches of which are seen as a growing threat.

The Interpol complex will be at Napier Road and is expected to open in April next year. It will have about 300 staff focusing on cyber-security, capacity building and training, as well as operational and investigative support.

Singapore's cooperation with Interpol will be further strengthened through a new international summit on global security called Interpol World, said Ms Viedma.

The inaugural edition will be held at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre from April 14 to 16 next year, a day after the opening of the global complex.

Supported by Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs, the event will connect governments and national security agencies with private security firms to explore technologies and solutions to address global security needs.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

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