REVELATIONS that a Malaysian diplomat murdered in Madagascar last week was tasked with transporting pieces of suspected MH370 wreckage to investigators in Malaysia has fuelled more dark conspiracy theories about the missing plane.
Honorary Consul of Malaysia Zahid Raza was gunned down in the centre of the island nation’s capital Antananarivo in an apparent assassination on August 24.
American adventurer-detective Blaine Gibson, who has been gathering suspected MH370 debris as it washes up on Madagascar and Mozambique, said Mr Raza had been due to deliver new items to Malaysian investigators in Kuala Lumpur when he was unexpectedly slain.
The timing has rattled Mr Gibson, who says he has been receiving death threats because of his self-financed mission to solve the baffling aviation mystery.
He had planned to keep details of his latest finds — which included two items he considered particularly promising — under wraps until they had been safely transported off the island but changed his mind after Mr Raza was killed.
“For the protection of those involved we decided not to make this report public until the debris was safely delivered to Malaysia,” Mr Gibson reported in his blog.
“However tragic events have intervened. Under the agreement between the two countries, debris is supposed to be collected by Hon. Zahid Raza, the Honorary Malaysian Consul in Madagascar, and delivered by private courier to Malaysia.
“On August 24, the Hon. Zahid Raza was assassinated in Antananarivo.”
Dr Victor Iannello, who was an original member of the independent group of specialists that helped Australian investigators try to pinpoint MH370’s crash site in the southern Indian Ocean off WA, said Mr Gibson had good reason to be concerned.
“At that time, six pieces were transferred. This has raised questions as to whether there was a link between those MH370 parts and Mr Raza’s death.
“What makes a possible link to MH370 even more suspicious is that in the time period surrounding his death, Mr Raza was expected to visit the Malagasy Ministry of Transport, retrieve additional recovered pieces, and deliver those pieces to Malaysia.”
Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 vanished on August 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 crew and passengers, including six Australians, on board.
Multiple pieces of wreckage, including a barnacle entrusted flaperon, the iconic “No Step” piece and at least one section of interior cabin, have been confirmed as having come from the missing Boeing 777 after washing up on islands off Africa’s south-east coast.
The fuselage and black box have never been found, leading to countless conspiracy theories about how, where and why the plane went down and whether authorities and associated companies such as Boeing orchestrated a cover up to protect their interests.
So it should come as no surprise that Mr Raza’s assassination is being viewed by some as a warning to anyone getting close to the truth.
However, local reports suggest Mr Raza was a marked man long before Mr Gibson came along.
The French-language news website ZINFOS 974 speculated Mr Raza was killed as payback for his alleged involvement in the 2009 abduction of several residents of Indo-Pakistani descent known collectively as Karens.
“Zahid Raza was the manager of an office supply business, Z & Z Center, in the Malagasy capital. He lived a few years in La Reunion before returning to Madagascar about three years ago to take up the post of consul in Antananarivo,” the article, published the day after the slaying, said.
“In Madagascar, his name is associated with the kidnapping of members of the Karen community in Fianarantsoa in 2009. Suspected of having participated, he is imprisoned in Tsiafahy and then in Antanimora prison. He was able to return to his country freely in December 2010, provoking indignation within the Karen community.”
But Dr Iannello said it appeared Mr Raza had not been convicted of any such crime.
“The association of Mr Raza with the kidnappers has not been confirmed, and could be disinformation,” he said.
“Hopefully, the facts surrounding this will surface. Surprisingly, the assassination of Mr Raza has been met with stony silence from both Malaysia and France, despite his ties to both countries.”
Meanwhile, as the investigation into Mr Raza’s murder continues, Mr Gibson’s new possible MH370 debris remains with Madagascar authorities until new arrangements can be made to send them to Malaysia.