August 25, 2011
Logging roads and damaged forest in Sarawak compared with healthy forest in Brunei. In March Taib claimed that 70 percent of Sarawak's forest was "intact", a claim that was quickly undermined with a simple "flyover" using Google Earth. Photo courtesy of Google Earth.
The Bruno Manser Fund and the Borneo Project, groups that campaign on behalf of forest people in Sarawak, a state in Malaysian Borneo, say the FBI's Seattle Division headquarters is owned by Wallysons Inc., a company controlled by the Taib family. The most prominent member of the Taib family is Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is suspected of massing billions of dollars of wealth through cozy ties with the logging industry during his 30 years of rule. An ongoing investigation by the Sarawak Report, an advocacy group headed by former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's sister-in-law Clare Rewcastle Brown, suggests that Taib's wealth is being laundered through overseas real estate companies, including Wallysons.
In a letter sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller, the Bruno Manser Fund and the Borneo Project have asked the FBI to suspend its rental contract for the Abraham Lincoln Building in Seattle. The NGOs also ask the FBI to evaluate whether the Taib family's investments in the United States violate federal anti-money-laundering laws.
Sarawak and neighboring areas. Map courtesy of Google Maps.
"While the the fight against public corruption should be one of the FBI’s top priorities, it is renting premises from the Taib family, one of South East Asia’s largest corruption networks“, the Bruno Manser Fund wrote in a statement. "We are seriously concerned that the FBI appears to be unduly backing the Taib family and its illicit foreign assets.
Taib is presently under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority in Switzerland.
The FBI did not immediately return a request for comment from Mongabay.com.