Banking giant Deutsche Bank is under investigation by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) for its dealings with the family of Abdul Taib Mahmud, the chief minister of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a group that campaigns on behalf of forest people in Borneo.
Chief Minister Taib is accused of using cozy ties with the state’s logging and plantation companies to acquire vast amounts of wealth. Research by the Sarawak Report, a muckraking group, suggests that Taib’s family controls hundreds of millions of dollars in overseas assets, including real estate in the United States and Canada. Taib is already under investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for alleged timber corruption during his 30 years in office. The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, FINMA, in May announced an investigation into Taib assets in Switzerland.
The newest development out of Germany came after the Bruno Manser Fund and other groups sent a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling attention to Deutsche Bank’s “close business relations” with Taib.
In a statement, the Bruno Manser Fund explained the ties between the German bank and the chief minister:
Since 2004, Deutsche Bank has processed transactions worth several hundred million euros for the Sarawak government and is engaged in a joint venture in Malaysia with the Cahya Mata Sarawak company (CMS), which is controlled by the Taib family.
CMS and Deutsche Bank are the principal shareholders of the finance company K & N Kenanga Holdings, domiciled in Kuala Lumpur, with its subsidiary Kenanga Deutsche Futures, an accredited broker at the Malaysian stock exchange. The CMS construction conglomerate essentially lives off assignments that are awarded by the Taib government without public tenders. CMS thus benefited greatly from the construction of the disputed Bakun dam and has a ten-year contract for maintaining the entire road network in Sarawak, Malaysia’s biggest federal state.
Last week the German Ministry of Finance responded to the Bruno Manser Fund, stating that it has “requested the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority to clarify and check the situation that you outline in your letter to the Federal Chancellor from the money-laundering angle, insofar as this concerns a specific financial institution and, if the Financial Supervisory Authority considers it appropriate, to instigate supervisory measures.”
BaFin “has already made a start on clarifying the situation,” according to the ministry.
The Bruno Manser Fund is calling for the German government to freeze any assets in Germany that belong to the Taib family.
Deutsche Bank in Europe and the United States did not immediately respond to requests for comment from mongabay.com.