Press statement by Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser 3 July 2018

The Pakatan government’s anti-corruption credibility leverages on its pursuance of other big corrupt public officials besides Najib Razak especially after the new MACC chief has just announced that she will not let off any “big fish” in her probes. Is there a bigger fish in Malaysia than the former Sarawak Chief Minister?

Thus, Malaysians will not let off such trifling excuses made by the Law Minister Liew Vui Keong that “…there is no new lead for the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to reopen its graft probe against Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud.”

A moral obligation to bring Taib to justice

Clare Rewcastle-Brown, the journalist who has been feted by Prime Minister Mahathir for helping to bring down his bete noire Najib Razak has said that the new federal government has a moral obligation to investigate corruption allegations against former Sarawak Chief Minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud as quickly and efficiently as possible. Put simply, the prime Minister cannot justify his full-blown enquiry into 1MDB and pursue Najib in the relentless manner that he has and yet ignore the tens of billions pillaged from Sarawak and the vast wealth owned by the family of Taib Mahmud, with properties in Canada, US, UK and elsewhere.

Make all public officials, including Taib, declare their assets

From the ferocity of the new PH government’s actions against the former PM, it must be assumed that their top priority is fighting corruption and promoting good public governance. Hence, making it mandatory for all public officials to declare all their assets, including those of their spouses and children is crucial to the campaign to prevent corruption in politics.

An obvious target for assets declaration would surely be the former Chief Minister of Sarawak for more than three decades, Taib Mahmud who has been touted to be the richest individual in Malaysia. The Prime Minister Dr Mahathir had earlier said that no action could be taken to investigate Taib because no police report had been made against the former CM.

Soon after he said that, he was soundly contradicted by Baram PKR chairman Roland Engan who said that he had filed a recent formal complaint against Sarawak Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud for alleged corruption and power abuse while still chief minister. He said the report was lodged at the Miri office of the MACC on June 6, a week after he lodged a similar report against Taib with the Miri police on May 29. Other state leaders have also said that they had made similar police reports against the former CM through the years.

What happened to MACC’s investigations into Taib’s fortunes?

In June 2011, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission said that it had initiated investigations into Taib Mahmud’s alleged millions in Swiss banks after Swiss financial authorities began looking into the former Sarawak Chief Minister’s tangled fortune. The Swiss Anti-Corruption Agency had frozen the assets of Taib Mahmud over the allegation of timber corruption. Then MACC commissioner Datuk Seri Abu Kassim Mohamed said MACC was in the process of gathering more information regarding the matter. So far, we have heard nothing more of these investigations. From their investigation, the MACC should at least let the Malaysian public know the extent of Taib and his family’s wealth.

Meanwhile, Clare Rewcastle Brown’s collaborators, Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) have said they are willing to share with the Pakatan Harapan government the results of a seven-year evidence-gathering process on alleged corrupt practices by Sarawak’s former chief minister and current governor Taib Mahmud. This was in response to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s call to show evidence on the Sarawak governor’s alleged corrupt practices.

BMF has estimated the combined net worth of 20 Taib family members at close to US$21 billion, spread over 400 companies around the globe accumulated over three decades. The family has controlled the granting of logging and plantation concessions, the export of timber, the maintenance of public roads as well as the production and sale of cement and other construction materials. The Taib family’s flagship company, Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS) has benefitted from untendered public contracts worth hundreds of millions of US dollars such as the RM10 billion Bakun dam, another mega project under the Mahathir administration in the Nineties; RM300 million state legislative assembly building in Kuching; maintenance of all 4,000km-long state roads in Sarawak and a 15-year concession to maintain 643km of federal roads.

On 20 April 2018, Taib Mahmud and his family were accused in a lawsuit of funnelling proceeds of corruption to fund the expansion of the Ottawa-based real estate company Sakto Group’s $259 million real estate empire. Sakto is run by Sean Murray and his wife, Jamilah Taib. Sakto, founded in 1983, owns several office and residential towers in Canada’s capital, including offices in the Preston Square office complex as well as the 158-unit luxury condo building, The Adelaide. (Bloomberg, 20.4.2018)

PH government must deliver on their war on kleptocracy

The Prime Minister Mahathir and the new PH government have pledged to wipe out kleptocracy and it was what gave them the victory at GE14. They must prove to the people that their hounding of Najib Razak and the 1MDB scandal was not a personal vendetta and an election winning strategy. Nor must they disappoint the people of Malaysia and especially Sarawakians who have seen the wealth of their state sucked dry by the rapacious greed of the kleptocrats there.

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