A coalition of Malaysian and international NGOs are calling for the arrest of Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and 14 family members for alleged abused of power, corruption, and money laundering, reports the Bruno Manser Fund, a group that has signed the letter urging action.
In a letter sent to Malaysia’s Attorney General (AG), the Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), 13 NGOs demand immediate arrest and prosecution of Taib, his four children, his eight siblings and his first cousin, Abdul Hamed Sepawi. Copies of the letter have been sent to “all major foreign embassies in Malaysia, heads of government, cabinet ministers and prosecutors in seven countries, the top executives of ten multinational corporations who conduct business in or with Sarawak and the editors of leading media around the globe,” according to BMF.
“We allege that only the systematic breach of the law and the use of illegal methods has enabled Mr. Taib and his family members to acquire such massive corporate assets”, states the letter. “Mr. Taib has been a state-paid public servant and government minister ever since 1963 and did not possess any significant independent assets prior to taking up office.”
The complaint alleges that Taib and his family has transferred hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of assets out of Malaysia. An investigation by BMF found $1.46 in assets in Malaysia belonging to the Taib family as well as substantial holdings overseas.
The letter urges action under the UN Convention against corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, treaties Malaysia has signed.
The full text of the letter follows.
Requested arrest and criminal prosecution of Abdul Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak, and thirteen family members
Dear Attorney General, Dear Chief Commissioner, Dear Inspector General,
We are writing to you to request the immediate arrest and criminal prosecution of Abdul Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak, and thirteen of his family members a co-conspirators in the illegal appropriation of public funds, the abuse of public office, the illegal appropriation of state land, fraud, larceny, corruption, systematic exploitation of conflicts of interest, suspected money-laundering, and conspiracy to form an international criminal organization.
These activities have been undertaken in Malaysia and other countries during Mr. Taib’s period in office as Chief Minister of the State of Sarawak since 26 March 1981and that these activities are still ongoing.
Personal details of the accused and his co-conspirators:
The principal accused
1) Abdul Taib Mahmud, born 21 May 1936, IC 360521-13-5015
Co-conspiring children of the accused
2) Jamilah Hamidah Taib Murray, born 19 September 1960, IC 600919-71-5044
3) Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, born 3 November 1963, IC 631103-13-5057
4) Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, 31 May 1968, IC 680531-13-5169
5) Hanifah Hajar Taib, born 28 August 1972, IC 720828-14-5126
Co-conspiring siblings of the accused
6) Ibrahim bin Mahmud, born 1 March 1943, IC 430301-13-5487
7) Aisah Zainab binti Mahmud, born 5 January 1947, IC 470105-13-5320
8) Zaleha binti Mahmud, born 19 September 1949, IC 49019-13-5416
9) Onn bin Mahmud, born 2 December 1949, IC 491202-13-5261
10) Mohamad Ali bin Mahmud, born 21 December 1950, IC 501221-13-5343
11) Mohd Tufail bin Mahmud, born 28 September 1952, IC 520928-13-5025
12) Amar Hajar Fredahanum Mahmud, born 25 December 1953, IC 531225-13-5080
13) Raziah binti Mahmud, born 24 November 1955, IC 551124-13-5080
Co-conspiring first cousin of the accused
14) Abdul Hamed bin Sepawi, born 31 May 1949, IC 490531-13-5129
We understand that the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) opened a formal investigation into Abdul Taib Mahmud earlier this year, as publicly announced on 9 June 2011 by Chief Commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed. 1We also understand that the authorities in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and presumably also Canada have started looking into Mr. Taib’s and his family members’ suspected illegal activities, in particular the potential laundering of illicit assets in these countries.2
However, we firmly believe that it is not enough for MACC to announce a public investigation, and immediate police action should be taken. Ample evidence of Mr. Taib’s and his co-conspirators’ offenses is available, and the above-mentioned suspects might use their remaining time in freedom to destroy evidence, to intimidate possible witnesses and to transfer their substantial illicit assets out of the country. We are also seriously concerned that the MACC investigation might be hindered by undue political interference and that, while remaining a free man, Mr. Taib might use his political influence and substantial private means to prevent the Malaysian law-enforcement agencies from fulfilling their duties.
We would also like to remind you that, as a party to the UN Convention against Corruption, Malaysia has committed itself- and thus has a strong international obligation -to efficiently combat public corruption and to assist the investigating authorities in other countries.
Evidence against the accused and his co-conspirators
By using publicly available information from the records at the Companies Commission of Malaysia and from official company registries around the world, the Bruno Manser Fund has identified 332 Malaysian and 85 foreign companies of which Abdul Taib Mahmud, his late wife Leijla, his four children, his nine siblings and his first cousin are directors, direct shareholders or indirect shareholders. Please find enclosed a comprehensive list of these companies and the names of the Taib family members involved (Exhibits 1,2, 3,4).
We allege that only the systematic breach of the law and the use of illegal methods has enabled Mr. Taib and his family members to acquire such massive corporate assets. Mr. Taib has been a state-paid public servant and government minister ever since 1963 and did not possess any significant independent assets prior to taking up office.
Mr. Taib is also accused of systematically and unduly favoring a number of family-linked companies by awarding them highly profitable untendered public contracts, hundreds of thousands of hectares of timber or plantation concessions and land leases, as well as other privileges.3
By way of an example, the Taib family-controlled Cahya Mata Sarawak has benefited massively from the construction of the new Sarawak State Assembly Building and holds an exclusive 10-year contract for the maintenance of all public roads in Sarawak. We also understand that the company has a monopoly on the production of cement, an essential raw material whose import to Sarawak has been forbidden by the state government.
A second example is the undue monopolistic control over timber exports by the Taib-family-owned Achi Jaya Holdings through its subsidiary, Dewan Niaga (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd. As uncovered by the Tokyo (Japan) tax authorities in 2007, this has allowed the Taib family, over a period of many years, to request Japanese shipping companies to pay millions of dollars of kickbacks to Hong Kong-based Chinese national, Shea Kin Kwok, an employee of the Chief Minister’s brother, Onn Mahmud.4
A third example of the massive corruption and abuse of public office by Abdul Taib Mahmud is the Taib-family-linked Ta Ann Holdings Bhd, a company that holds net assets of close on 1.4 billion Malaysian Ringgits. Since its beginnings in the 1980s, Ta Ann Holdings and its subsidiaries have been granted over 362,439 hectares of logging concessions and 313,078 hectares of plantation concessions in Sarawa k.5 All these concessions have been granted by Abdul Taib Mahmud without public tender. Ta Ann’s wealth is thus entirely based on corruption, and its chairman, Hamed bin Sepawi, who happens to be Taib’s first cousin, continues to be one of Taib’s closest business cronies and allies.6
According to our calculations, which are based entirely on official M alaysian records, the Taib family stake in the cumulated net assets of 271Malaysian companies is several billion Malaysian Ringgits (Exhibit 3).7 The known Taib family stake in the net assets of 14 large companies alone (all completely independent of one another) is greater than 4.6 billion Malaysian Ringgits, i.e. 1.46 billion US dollars (Exhibit 4).8
We consider, for several reasons, that these figures only reveal the tip of the iceberg and believe that the real corporate assets of the Taib family in Malaysia are much higher. Firstly, a number of Taib family-related companies fail to provide financial information
in their official records deposited with the Companies Commission Malaysia. Secondly, the real value of these companies is significantly higher than their net assets. And, thirdly, there is ample reason using nominees in order to conceal their economic interest in a number of companies.
Foreign properties worth hundreds of millions of US dollars
In addition to their massive illicit corporate interests in Malaysia, the members of the Taib family have transferred assets worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of US dollars out of Malaysia. This is particularly pernicious and detrimental for the economy of Sarawak and Malaysia as a whole and should thus be heavily punished.
In Ottawa, Canada, co-conspirators Onn Mahmud, Jamilah Taib Murray and Abu Bekir have, in the period since 1983, established Sakto Development Corporation and a group of associated companies (Sakto Corporation, City Gate International Corporation and others) that hold properties worth several hundred million Canadian dollars (Exhibits 5 and 6). While Mr. Taib has publicly acknowledged, in a video statement released on Youtube, that he gave his daughter Jamilah the funds to launch her property business, he has not given a sufficient explanation as to the origins of these funds.
In London, United Kingdom, Taib’s daughter Jamilah Taib Murray is in control of Ridgeford Properties, a property development company holding luxury properties estimated at several hundred million British pounds. Ridgeford Properties is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian City Gate International Corporation of which Taib’s daughter Jamilah and her Canadian husband Sean Murray are the only directors (Exhibit
In the United States, Taib’s son, Sulaiman Rahman Abdul Taib, chairs several corporations which are owned by the Taib family-Wallysons Inc., a Washington corporation, as well as four Californian corporations-W.A. Boylston Inc., W.A. Everett Inc., Sakti lnternational Corporation and Sakti International Holdings Inc. (Exhibits 8, 9 and 10). The properties held by these companies are worth dozens of millions of US dollars.
It is particularly striking that, according to official records, W.A. Boylston Inc. and W.A. Everett Inc. were given to the Taib family for free by a US-based property company, CSY Investments, which, at the time, was controlled by Chee Siew Yaw, the son of Yaw Teck Seng, founder and majority shareholder of the Malaysian Yaw Holding Sdn Bhd, Bermuda-incorporated Samling Global (“Samling”) and its many subsidiaries in Malaysia and other countries (Exhibit 11).9
Samling has benefited massively from Abdul Taib Mahmud’s policies and has received land leases and logging concessions in Sarawak for close on 1.9 million hectares.10 It is strongly suspected that the above-mentioned property companies were given to the Taib family as a bribe in return for a favor by the Sarawak Chief Minister to Yaw Holding, Samling Global or their subsidiaries.
Documents disclosed by the late Taib US aide Ross Boyert have further shown that a significant number of shares in Sakti International Holding are being held by Taib’s siblings and children “in trust for Abdul Taib Mahmud”, who is the secret majority shareholder (Exhibit 12). We believe that these internal company documents disclose the modus operandi of Abdul Taib Mahmud and allege that most of the companies visibly held by his family members are de facto owned by the Chief Minister himself.
In Australia, research by the Bruno Manser Fund has shown that Abdul Taib Mahmud and his co-conspiring family members are closely linked to 22 companies (Exhibit 13). By way of an example, 85% of the shares in Sitehost Pty Ltd, the operator of the Adelaide Hilton, are held by Taib’s late wife Leijla and Taib’s four children (Exhibit 14).
In Hong Kong, Taib’s co-conspiring brother, Onn Mahmud, has been the controlling owner of Richfold Investment Ltd., while his long-term employee, Mr. Shea Kin Kwok, has cashed in kickbacks from Japanese shipping companies who carried Sarawak timber to Japan through Regent Star Company Ltd. Richfold Investment Ltd. and Regent Star Company Ltd. operated from the same offices and were founded in the same week (Exhibits 15 and 16).
Malaysia’s obligations towards the international community
Gentlemen, our extended research, numerous media reports and ample documentary evidence from official records leads us to conclude that Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family members have been involved in systematic criminal activities for three decades, which are still ongoing.
We believe that the criminal nature of Mr. Taib and his family members’ “private” businesses can no longer be denied by anyone who is intellectually honest, desirous of seeing the truth and interested in the good of the Malaysian people and, in particular, the people of Sarawak.
We would like to remind you that Malaysia, as signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, has a strong international obligation to fight corruption and organized crime in an efficient, timely and expedient manner.
We are thus asking you, Gentlemen, to fulfill your duty as leading prosecuting officials of Malaysia and take immediate action against Abdul Taib Mahmud and his 13 co conspiring family members.
Malaysia’s international credibility is at stake over the Taib case.
Dr. Lukas Straumann
Bruno Manser Fund