MH370 families seek $5 million for investigation, 'whistle-blower' reward
POSTED: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 6:27am
UPDATED: Monday, June 23, 2014 - 1:24pm
(CNN) — Three months to the day after a Malaysian jetliner vanished, relatives of several passengers on board launched an effort Sunday to raise $5 million for investigations and a "whistle blower" reward.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8 with 239 people aboard.
After weeks of underwater searches, the multinational effort to scour the southern Indian Ocean has turned up no signs of the plane. The underwater search was postponed in late May.
Australia said it will negotiate with private companies to conduct the next phase of the search. The next stage of the underwater search is not expected to start until at least late July or August.
So relatives of some passengers, along with two others, have started the Reward MH370 fundraiser. It launched on the crowdsourcing website Indiegogo.
"Without a fresh approach, the truth and the plane will never be found," Sarah Bajc, partner of passenger Philip Wood, said on the campaign's website.
The campaign is led by a "governance committee" that includes seven people: five are family members of passengers, and two are experienced with fundraising and private investigation, the Reward MH370 website says.
" All decisions made regarding management of the campaign, selection of and coordination with private investigation resources, lead advancement and reward payment must be approved by a majority of the Governance Committee," the site says.
Ethan Hunt, the Australian businessman leading the project, said while he doesn't know exactly where the plane is, "I'm certain it's not in the ocean."
He said someone does know where the plane is, and the money will be an incentive for that person to come forward.
"Utilizing the immense potential of the crowd, we believe we can achieve our primary goal of recovering the flight where others methods have failed," he said.
How will the fund be handled?
Hunt said Monday that the money raised will go into a bank account in Hong Kong that will be set up in the next week.
The account will have three signatories: Bajc, Hunt, and a third person yet to be determined. Two signatures will be needed to take the money out, Hunt said.
He said a legally binding agreement twill be signed by everyone involved in the next few days. That agreement, Hunt said, states that no individual committee member of the campaign may profit from the venture.
What about the private investigation?
Any tips will be vetted by a "certified private investigation company," but the company has not been hired yet, Hunt said.
He said he has faced an extortion attempt on a previous crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo -- that time for a business venture.
Hunt said he is prepared for outside criticism from his own government or even from the families of other passengers on board MH370. But he asked his skeptics to consider the chance that the effort could help find the missing aircraft.
K.S. Narendran, husband of passenger Chandrika Sharma, said he has been mulling the campaign for several weeks.
"The point is this: Something like this is a good step to take," Narendran said. "The move and intentions are honorable and everybody, as far as I am concerned, is committed to making sure that this is well-managed."
What's the latest on the official search?
A team of search officials will head to Canberra, Australia, on Tuesday to finalize the terms of Malaysian participation in the next phase of the hunt for MH370, Malaysia's deputy minister of communications said.
Authorities believe the plane, en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, veered off course and crashed in the Indian Ocean west of Australia.
Officials are soliciting private companies for the use of high-tech underwater equipment in the next stage of the search.
Malaysian Deputy Defense Minister said the price is not known, but the cost "will be shared 50/50 -- 50% by Malaysia, and 50% by Australia."
When asked about private crowdsourcing effort to find the plane, Malaysia's civil aviation director said he had no problems with the campaign.
"We leave it to them. I think if they want to engage ... and they want to employ investigators ... I think they can do so," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said.
"Then hopefully they can share their outcome of their investigation with us. Then we can discuss together."
CNN's Faith Karimi, Anjali Tsui and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.