MAS pays families of seven MH370 passengers $62,500 each

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia Airlines has so far paid US$50,000 (S$62,507) each to the families of seven passengers of MH370 as advance compensation, Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainuddin said, adding that payments for the other 232 passengers are still being processed or reviewed by their respective governments.

The amount is part of the final insurance payment, to be calculated when the plane's wreckage is finally found. So far, there has been no sign of any wreckage from the Boeing B777-200 jet despite the largest aviation search-and-recovery operation in history.

"We have conducted 43 sessions with the next-of-kin on various issues," Datuk Hamzah, who leads Malaysia's ministerial-level sub-committee to resolve next-of-kin issues, told a news conference on Thursday.

He said of the seven passengers given the payouts, six were Malaysians and one Chinese national. The rest of the cases were still being processed either through direct meetings or via lawyers appointed by the families, he added.

The payments by the airlines came nearly 100 days after MH370 disappeared from radar on March 8 with 239 people on board.

Mr Hamzah also told reporters that the families were free to form or join initiatives relating to MH370, when asked about a crowdfunding activity led by Ms Sarah Bajc, partner of American passenger Philip Wood, to raise US$5 million for a whistleblower and private investigator fund to probe the plane's disappearance.

"If it can help the families, it's up to them to appoint whistleblowers or lawyers," Mr Hamzah said. "Whatever info we find is to try to locate MH370. Anything more is up to them."

The deputy foreign minister also requested for the Voice MH370 group asking for a meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak to identify itself or name a representative.

In an unsigned letter on Thursday, the group had said it was waiting for the government to confirm a date to meet Datuk Seri Najib and the MH370 committee to resolve transparency and other issues on the search for the jetliner.

Mr Hamzah, however, said the group must name a representative before meetings could take place.

"I want the letter's authors to say who they are and their authority to head the group. You want us to be transparent but you don't reveal who you are," he said.

Flight MH370 with 239 on board disappeared on March 8 while travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It is believed to have been deliberately diverted thousands of kilometres from its scheduled route before eventually crashing into the Indian Ocean.