The fact that two stolen passports were used to book seats on missing Malaysian flight MH370 has brought to light one of the most serious gaps in airline security: governments don’t always check Interpol’s stolen passport database.

Interpol estimates that out of more than 1 billion arrivals across international borders every year, more than half happened without checking passenger travel documents against Interpol’s database of stolen or lost travel documents (SLTD), which contains almost 40 million records and produced more than 60,000 hits last year, according to its website.

Enter Interpol’s I-Checkit pilot program, and an important role for bankers.

Instead of relying only on governments to screen these documents, I-Checkit will allow the private sector to play a part, using airlines, travel companies and banks as a front-line defense. In particular, banks will be able to check the SLTD database when someone uses a passport to open a checking account, and record any hits.

From the remarks of Interpol’s Secretary General Ronald Noble at the Aviation Security and Border Control Summit last November:

“We still rely on a model where governments are left alone to screen the waves of individuals crossing borders on a daily basis. A model where in far too many countries we wait for threats to reach an airport, before trying to identify them as such — when it’s just tragically too late, as history has taught us.

“We want threats to be identified by law enforcement as far away as possible from check-in desks, boarding gates or from the tarmac. And we want the private sector to be given the tools to help keep travellers safe.”