Mahathir Mohamad
Mahathir Mohamad said the current search for MH370 is a waste of time and moneyReuters

An influential figure in Malaysia's ruling party has claimed crucial information about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is being concealed by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian prime minister, said the current search off the coast of western Australia is a waste of time and money.

"The plane is somewhere, maybe without MAS [Malaysia Airlines] markings," he said. "It is a waste of time and money to look for debris or oil slick or to listen for pings from the black box."

Dr Mahathir added that the plane's disappearance on 8 March was "most likely not an ordinary crash after fuel was exhausted".

Dr Mahathir, now aged 88, was prime minister for 22 years from 1981.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, he wrote in his personal blog that it was unlikely that the "pilots made a soft landing in rough seas and then quietly went down with the aircraft."

"Someone is hiding something. It is not fair that MAS and Malaysia should take the blame," he added.

Dr Mahathir suggested the CIA had knowledge of the Boeing 777's disappearance but was not sharing it with Malaysia. He claimed that government agencies, along with Boeing, had the ability to remotely take control of commercial airliners.

"For some reason, the media will not print anything that involves Boeing or the CIA," he said.

Dr Mahathir wrote that planes "don't disappear" with the "powerful communications systems, radio and satellite tracking and filmless cameras which operate almost indefinitely, and possess huge storage capacities".

"Can it not be that the pilots of MH370 lost control of their aircraft after someone directly or remotely activated the equipment for seizure of control of the aircraft?"

In a blog post last month, Dr Mahathir blamed Boeing for the crash, questioning whether the plane had ended its flight in the southern Indian Ocean.

Critical of the West

During his time in power, Dr Mahathir was often critical of Western countries, including the US. He once suggested that the attacks on the World Trade Centre were staged as an excuse to mount attacks on the Muslim communities.

Although prime minister Najib Razak said last week that nobody knew what happened on board, or precisely where the plane was, Dr Mahathir's speculations and comments about MH370 reflect deep suspicion of foreign involvement in the investigation and search.

The current Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak previously described the location by satellite of purported MH370 debris in the Indian Ocean as "hard to believe".