A Taiwanese politician with a penchant for controversy has claimed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 was hijacked by its crew to force the Malaysian government into freeing jail-bound opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Chiu Yi, a former legislator of Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang, posted the dubious allegation on his Sina Weibo microblog page on Tuesday, shortly after Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak declared that satellite analysis concluded the Boeing 777-200, which vanished March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, had crashed into the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board.
Authorities have yet to locate the wreckage or come up with an explanation as to why the plane “deliberately” switched off its communications systems, diverted off course and ended up on the other side of the planet. Prominent theories include pilot suicide and a catastrophic mechnical failure that depressurized the cabin and incapacitated everyone on board while the plane continued flying unpiloted.
Citing an unnamed “friend” in the US government, Chiu later elaborated on his microblog post to reporters, explaining that the crew of flight MH370 held the plane and its 227 passengers hostage and demanded authorities exonerate Anwar, whose acquittal on a five-year sodomy charge was overturned the day before the plane disappeared.
While the official version of events claims that the plane lost contact at around 1:20am, Chiu says the crew had been in negotiations with the Malaysian government from about 1:30am. In the end, the demands of the crew were denied and the plane ran out of fuel before crashing into the sea, Chiu added.
The reason why the plane did not land elsewhere is because the pilot, who was not a trained terrorist, could not find a suitable landing strip or the required guidance from the ground Chiu said, adding that the crew did not have a contingency plan as they had not expected their demands to be ignored.
Chiu also said that his sources revealed that the flight’s 53-year-old captain, Zaharie Ahmed Shah, was related to Anwar by marriage, though this was already made public more than a week ago when Anwar, who remains free on bail, admitted that the pilot was a supporter of his and a distant relative of his daugher-in-law.
Chiu is not the first to suggest that there might be a political motive for the disappearance for flight MH370. In fact, his theory has already been denied by the people who knew the captain and by Anwar himself, who described his supporter as a decent man and said that he was disgusted the missing plane is being linked to politics.
With a lack of strong leads to follow, however, investigators are continuing to focus on the captain, who possessed a home-built flight simulator from which files were deleted about a month before the fateful flight. Police are now looking into reports that Shah received a two-minute call from a mystery woman using a number obtained with a false identity shortly before takeoff. They are also reportedly under pressure from the FBI to interview Shah’s estranged wife, whom some reports say moved out of their family home the day before the flight.
The 57-year-old Chiu is a notorious whistleblower in Taiwan known for targeting the opposition Democratic Progressive Party with charges of corruption, the majority of which ultimately prove unsubstantiated. He was imprisoned for seven months in 2007 for inciting a mob to ram a Kaohsing courthouse with a van when the KMT lost 2004 presidential election, after which he also made false accusations of impropriety against the victorious DPP with fake documents. He was also ordered to pay NT$300,000 (US$9,800) to DPP politician Frank Hsieh, a former premier, for defamation in 2011. He is frequently attacked by Taiwanese and Chinese netizens who ridicule his hairpiece, his extra-marital affair with a 19-year-old student in the 1990s, and most recently for mistaking a sunflower for a banana on television.