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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Couple charged with theft from passengers of missing flight MH370

Yesterday, Australia’s Prime Minister says there is still “a reasonable chance” of finding the plane.

File photo dated 3 April 2014: Relatives of Chinese passengers on board the missing flight stand by a candle memorial in a prayer room in Beijing.
File photo dated 3 April 2014: Relatives of Chinese passengers on board the missing flight stand by a candle memorial in a prayer room in Beijing.
Image: Ng Han Guan/PA Wire

A MALAYSIAN BANK officer and her husband were charged with the theft of money from the accounts of passengers on board missing flight MH370 on the same day Australia’s Prime Minister confirmed a new search for the plane.

The couple were charged yesterday with theft and other offences after allegedly stealing more than €26,000 from the accounts of four people who were aboard missing flight MH370.

Nur Shila Kanan, who has worked for the Malaysian operations of British banking giant HSBC for 10 years, and her mechanic husband Basheer Ahmad Maula Sahul Hameed pleaded not guilty in a Kuala Lumpur court to a total of 16 charges, their lawyer Hakeem Aiman Affandi said.

The couple, who have three children and are both aged 33, are alleged to have withdrawn a total of 110,643 ringgit (€26,300) from the accounts of two Malaysians and two Chinese nationals who were on the Malaysia Airlines flight.

The withdrawals were allegedly made via ATMs and electronic transfers between May 14 and July 8, Hakeem added.

Each could face several years in prison if convicted. The charges include illegally transferring money electronically, which alone carries up to 10 years in prison.

Police are still looking for another suspect, a Pakistani, who is believed to have had some of the money deposited into his bank account through an online transfer.

The case has provoked outrage in Malaysia, which has seen an outpouring of sympathy for MH370 victims and their families.

Ocean floor search

The flight with 239 people aboard disappeared on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. It is believed to have veered mysteriously off course and gone down far to the south in the Indian Ocean, but no trace has been found despite a massive international search for the Boeing 777.

Yesterday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said a new underwater hunt would concentrate on the likely crash zone of the plane in the southern Indian Ocean – but it could take up to a year:

They are now going to search the entire probably impact zone which is, from memory, something like 60,000 square kilometres of the ocean floor, off the coast of Western Australia. If the plane is down there – and the best expert advice is that it did go into the water somewhere in this arc off the coast of Western Australia – if the plane is down there, there is a reasonable chance that we’ll find it because we are using the best possible technology.

Abbott said authorities “did the best we could with the equipment available” in the first stage of the search in harsh and remote seas. He said the next stage, the deep-water search for which Australia has engaged Dutch firm Fugro Survey.

“We’re determined to do the right thing by the Australian families who lost their loved ones in this plane, we’re determined to do the right thing by all of the bereaved families,” the premier added. “And we’ve got a long way to go before we’re going to give this one up.”

- © AFP, 2014; additional reporting by Susan Ryan

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