Swiss NGO, Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), has reiterated its call for governments and banks around the globe to freeze the assets of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and his family.
It has also called on anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering authorities worldwide to investigate the Taib family’s business activities.
In a statement issued in conjunction with the release of its report ‘The Taib Timber Mafia. Facts and Figures on Politically Exposed Persons from Sarawak, Malaysia’ in Brussels, Belgium earlier today, BMF said the Taibs could be compared to Indonesia’s president Suharto and president Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.
“The Taibs are being compared to the Suharto and Marcos clans who have also stolen billions from their countries.
“According to Transparency International, former Indonesian president Suharto had embezzled US$15 to US$35 billion, while former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos is thought to have stolen between US$20 and US$900 billion.
“We want the governments and banks around the globe to freeze Taib family assets.
“These assets should be frozen and restituted to the people of Sarawak, and the Taib family and their co-conspirators should be prosecuted for corruption, abuse of public funds, fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and other related crimes,” noted the statement, alluding to the report which detailed Taib and his family’s extensive wealth.
According to the report, which was released to coincide with the visit by the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, Bernard Dompok, to the European Union, Taib and his 20-member clan are worth US$21 billion (RM64 billion).
And the extensive wealth, the report claims, was derived “through the almost complete political and economic control of Sarawak” over the past three decades.
“Taib Mahmud has systematically plundered a country once rich in natural resources, particularly oil, gas and timber. While the proceeds of the oil and gas extraction are mostly benefiting Malaysia’s federal government, the Sarawak state government enjoys total autonomy as to the use of the state’s forest resources and state lands.
“The Bruno Manser Fund estimates the combined net worth of 20 Taib family members at close to US$21 billion, which have been acquired through the almost complete political and economic control of Sarawak, over three decades.
“In particular, the Taibs have established monopolies over the granting of timber and plantation concessions, the export of timber to third countries, the maintenance of public roads as well as over the production and sale of cement and a number of other construction materials,” it said.
Taib’s assets being monitored
Taib, an impoverished carpenter’s son, has been helming Sarawak since 1981.
According to the report, his personal wealth now stands at US$15 billion (RM45 billion), making him the richest man in Malaysia.
The second richest man in Malaysia is his brother Onn Mahmud with a net worth of US$1.5 billion (RM4.5 billion).
Both have been closely linked to logging scandals dating back to 1981, the year Taib assumed the chief minister’s post.
The report cited two key scandals – one in 2007 and another in 2008.
“In 2007, a scandal exposed by the Japanese tax authorities revealed that tens of millions of US dollars had been paid in secret, illegal kickbacks by Japanese shipping companies exporting timber from Sarawak.
“The money was paid directly to Hong Kong companies linked to the chief minister’s brother, Onn Mahmud. The Japanese cartel concluded an agreement in 1981 with Malaysia’s Dewan Niaga Sarawak regarding lumber transport.
“Dewan Niaga is a state-affiliated agency in charge of lumber export control and is headed by Onn Mahmud, one of Taib’s brothers.
“In 2008, Indonesian newspaper, Tribun Pontianak, revealed that around 30 shipments of illegal Indonesian logs were imported into Sarawak and re-exported to other countries every month. Chief Minister Taib Mahmud was implicated in this timber scam,” the report noted.
Taib is now aggressively pursuing his pet project – the multi-billion dollar “Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy” (SCORE) – an industrialisation project comprising 50 hydroelectric dams, oil palm plantations, smelter plants and mining projects.
The projects are being widely opposed by the local communities. The dams are set to displace tens of thousands of indigenous people and will ultimately benefit the Taib family and his close political allies.
“Taib is regarded by many Malaysians as being the ‘thief minister’ of Sarawak.
“In June 2011, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission [MACC] announced that Taib was under investigation for allegations of timber corruption.
“The UK, Swiss, German and Australian governments are now monitoring Taib assets abroad and the ongoing investigation in Malaysia,” said the report.
Taib, meanwhile, has denied BMF’s claims that he is being investigated by the Swiss authorities.
The BMF had alleged on its website that the Swiss Financial Marketing Supervisory Authority is investigating Taib’s alleged assets in Swiss banks.
Taib refuted the allegations, describing them as “utterly false and evidently politically motivated”.
He said BMF had a track record of making “scurrilous and scandalous” allegations against the state government.
“Therefore, BMF’s false allegations about assets held in Switzerland by me are a continuation of their malicious efforts to smear the state, the government and the leaders,” he told members of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly sitting in June last year. – By FMT