Australian police charge man over bomb threat on Malaysia Airlines flight

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian police on Tuesday charged a man after he allegedly claimed to have explosives on board a Malaysia Airlines flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur, forcing it to return to Sydney.

The man, 45, was charged with making a false statement about a threat to damage a plane and not complying with cabin crew’s safety instructions, the Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

The offences carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of over A$15,000 ($9,730).

Flight MH122 left Sydney on Monday afternoon for Malaysia and returned to Sydney about three hours later after the passenger “allegedly became disruptive” during the flight, police said.

Passengers and crew were evacuated from the plane once it was deemed safe and the man was arrested without incident. He is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

Police did not specify the nationality of the man though they said he is a resident of Canberra.

Thirty-two domestic flights were cancelled and other domestic flights delayed by up to 90 minutes due to the incident, Sydney Airport said. There were no international flight cancellations.

($1 = 1.5415 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Stephen Coates)