Malaysia Airlines: Canadian passenger's ties to India's ruling class

The two Canadians missing on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, businessman Muktesh Mukherjee, who was born in India, and his China-born wife, Bai Xiaomo, have roots that run deep in India's powerful political and ruling class.
The two Canadians listed as passengers on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing are former Montreal residents Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, and his wife, Bai Xiaomo, 37. (Facebook)

The two Canadians missing on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have roots that run deep in India's powerful political and ruling class.

Businessman Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, who was born in India, and his China-born wife, Bai Xiaomo, 37, lived in Montreal for several years, before moving to Chicago, and are now based in China.

Indian newspapers have published extensive coverage revealing a distinguished family including lawyers, a judge, former MPs and political operatives. 

The Mukherjees of Calcutta are a very political family. Muktesh's grandfather, Mohan Kumaramangalam, was the cabinet minister responsible for steel and mines in Indira Gandhi's government, until he perished in an accidental plane crash in Delhi in 1973.

His son-in-law, Malay, the father of Muktesh, started the family's Canadian connection, and went on to become a force in the world of steel production. 

He earned a master's degree in Moscow, and completed a management program associated with the University of Ottawa.

He rose to be a wealthy executive with ArcelorMittal, "instrumental in creation of the largest steel company in the world," according to his Indian alumni website.

It was a job that took him all over the world, doing business with all kinds of governments. 

Following in his father's footsteps, Muktesh also went to work for ArcelorMittal, after getting a post-graduate degree at McGill University in Montreal.

He and his wife owned a condo in Montreal for at least three years, at some point obtaining Canadian citizenship and moving to Chicago, where they still maintain a house.

Today, he works for Pennsylvania-based Xcoal Energy & Resources, an American company with ambitions to ship 18-million tons of higher-sulphur coal to China in this fiscal year.

The couple and their two young boys live in Beijing, the city where they met after Bai was hired to be his guide and translator.

Their many pictures posted online show a smiling family at leisure with sons Mirav, 9, and Miles, 2.

By all reports, Muktesh Mukherjee likes to live well. Before boarding Flight MH370, the family had stayed at a villa with a private pool in Hanoi, Vietnam, that rented for $1,500 a night.

A sharp-dressed man, he's said to be partial to designer clothes. 

"Don't buy ordinary shoes" he reportedly told his uncle, Milan Mukherjee, a criminal lawyer who accompanied him on a trip to Canada. 

He proceeded to buy his older relative a pair of expensive shoes as well as a new Zegna jacket.

"He is a hero who loves living life to the fullest" Milan Mukherjee told Calcutta's Telegraph newspaper. "And he loves his 

A world traveller and soccer fan who'd attended the World Cup in South Africa four years ago, Muktesh Mukherjee was planning to fly to Brazil for the next one, according to his uncle. 

Authorities from many nations with missing nationals are trying to determine the cause of the disappearance of Flight MH370. 

For the time being though, the family is living in crisis, as are hundreds of others awaiting news about missing relatives.

“We’re just trying to cope, and we’re all  trying to stay strong for the children of my brother and sister-in-law; they are what is keeping us going,” said Mohan Mukherjee, 40, the younger brother of Muktesh, who is in the IT business in Dubai, UAE.

“It is a very difficult time for all of us, but we are managing" he told the The National, a government-owned newspaper published  in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

"We have the family around, so we are getting through this.”


Rick MacInnes-Rae

World Affairs

Until his retirement in July 2014, Rick MacInnes-Rae was the World Affairs Correspondent for CBC News. A former Europe Correspondent and host of Dispatches, his 37-year- career with the CBC has taken him across much of the globe.