MH17 kin to get only RM30,000 each in new Petronas-backed deal, Aussie lawyer claims

File picture shows relatives of the Australian victims of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17 reacting during a service for the unveiling of a memorial outside Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, July 17, 2015. — Reuters pic
File picture shows relatives of the Australian victims of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17 reacting during a service for the unveiling of a memorial outside Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, July 17, 2015. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — Ahead of the Dutch Safety Board’s final report on the fatal downing of Flight MH17, an Australian lawyer representing families of passengers aboard has advised his clients against settling for a new offer from Malaysia Airlines that could see them receive only RM30,000 each from a RM10 million pool.

Jerry Skinner of Sydney-based firm LHD who had previously negotiated settlements for families of the 1988 Lockerbie air disaster in the UK, branded the deal the “dirtiest thing” he has ever seen as each MH17 family would likely receive only A$10,000 (RM30,309) — or about the cost of a business-class return flight from Sydney to London — unless the fund was enlarged, Sydney Morning Herald reported today.

The Australian daily owned by Fairfax Media said it had sighted a copy of the letter dated October 5, which offers families of the dead passengers a share of the RM10 million fund set up by state-owned oil company Petronas.

The offer is valid only until October 15, the daily reported.

“This was set up a year ago but for whatever reason they notified clients they could claim this donation now, a week before the investigator’s report,” the lawyer was quoted as saying.

The Netherlands had taken in the an international investigation on the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight shot down over restive eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014 that killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

Its Dutch Safety Board is expected to release the final report at the Gilze-Rijen air force base in southern Netherlands on Tuesday at 1115 GMT (7.15pm Malaysian time), French news agency AFP reported today.

According to Sydney Morning Herald, the release of the report will increase the pressure on those involved as any legal suit must be filed within two years of the plane loss.

“It’s the dirtiest thing I have seen yet. The families could be asked to pay the money back to Malaysia Airlines, because there is an indemnity clause which means they agree to insure the airline against further claims by others.

“Instead of offering anybody anything that approaches full damages, they are offering a year-and-a-half-old donation and trying to take advantage of the situation,” Skinner was quoted saying further.

The Australian paper said it has sought to contact Malaysia Airlines for comment but has yet to receive any response.

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