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MH370 families seek $5 million for investigation, reward

By David Molko and Holly Yan, CNN
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1455 GMT (2255 HKT)
  • NEW: Search official: Hopefully they can share the outcome of their investigation with us
  • Fundraiser's project leader: I'm certain the plane is not in the ocean
  • The money will go toward the investigation and a reward, he says
  • A governance committee includes five relatives of passengers and two others

(CNN) -- Using dramatic music fit for a Hollywood epic, a video-led fund-raising effort hit the Web this week purportedly to help find answers about missing Malaysia Flight 370.

Several relatives of the 239 people on board appear in a video posted on the crowdsourcing site Indiegogo.

They say nothing, and stare into a camera, solemn-faced. They hold up pieces of papers with their missing relatives' names. "Please help us find the truth," one man's sign implores.

The site aims to raise $5 million.

"OUR effort will not be in opposition to the official investigation, but rather seeks to uncover clues not yet discovered, and to pursue that evidence without interference from parties who are also liability holders in this case," the page reads. "We hope to plug doubts, overcome shortcomings, and improve the number of actionable leads towards in the search for MH370. The accountability of the authorities remains undiluted."

A massive multinational search to scour the southern Indian Ocean where Malaysian authorities said the plane crashed has turned up no wreckage.

The underwater search was postponed in late May. Australia said it will negotiate with private companies to conduct the next phase but that isn't expected to start until at least late July or August.

Some family members have been critical of the way Malaysia has handled the investigation. Sarah Bajc is one of them.

"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 people experienced in fund-raising 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.

Australian businessman Ethan Hunt is leading the project. "I'm certain it's not in the ocean," Hunt told CNN about the plane.

He suspects someone knows where the jetliner is, and the money raised will serve as 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 established 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 will 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.

Who handles tips that come in?

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 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, which departed Kuala Lumpur on March 8 bound for 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 the 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."

Airlines want tracking technology to prevent another MH370

CNN's Faith Karimi, Anjali Tsui and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

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