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article imageMH370 search under review, may be scrapped: Mahathir

By AFP     May 23, 2018 in World

The hunt for missing flight MH370 is being reviewed and may be scrapped, Malaysia's prime minister said Wednesday, as the country's new government seeks cuts in public spending.

The Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared in March 2014 with 239 mostly Chinese people onboard while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

No sign of the plane was found in a 120,000 square kilometre (46,000 square mile) sea search zone and the Australian-led hunt, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January last year.

The former Malaysian government struck a "no find, no fee" deal with exploration firm Ocean Infinity to resume the search in an area north of the original zone, that scientists now believe is the likeliest crash site.

The search restarted in January and Ocean Infinity stands to make as much as $70 million if the jet is found.

However Malaysia's new government, which came to power after a surprise election victory on May 9, said they may not continue the deal.

"We are reviewing the contract," Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told reporters after chairing his first cabinet meeting since the poll.

"We may terminate it if it's not useful."

The new administration has said the country's finances are in bad shape partly due to allegations that billions of dollars were looted from a state fund by ousted leader Najib Razak and his cronies.

Najib is now being probed over his role in the scandal. He denies any wrongdoing.

Mahathir announced Wednesday that members of the cabinet would have their base salaries cut by 10 percent to demonstrate the government was concerned about the nation's finances.

Mahathir's coalition, the Pact of Hope, unseated the once-powerful Barisan Nasional, which had ruled the country uninterrupted for 61 years.

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