EXCLUSIVE: Bruno Manser Fund names Taib’s foreign helpers
(BASEL, SWITZERLAND) Thirty individuals from nine countries have today been named and shamed by the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund for being business partners, proxies or other helpers of Malaysian potentate Abdul Taib Mahmud (“Taib”) and his family. Taib, Chief Minister of Malaysia’s largest state since 1981, has for a long time been accused of destructive logging of the Borneo rainforest and the massive abuse of his public office for personal gain. With his family members involved in global business operations estimated at several billion US dollars, Taib is believed to be one of South East Asia’s richest and most corrupt politicians.
The Bruno Manser Fund is calling on the international community to carefully monitor and scrutinize the Taib family’s international business transactions and investments as they are likely to be linked to illicit activities in Malaysia. The governments of Malaysia, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States have been contacted and asked to investigate the Taib family’s business activities and to freeze suspected or proven Taib family assets in their countries.
In June 2011, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) officially announced that Taib was under investigation for corruption. Authorities in Australia, Germany and Switzerland have also indicated to us that they would investigate the legality of Taib family activities and potential Taib family assets.
Taib’s foreign helpers list includes one head of state and three public officials
The Bruno Manser Fund’s list includes one head of state, Monaco’s Prince Albert II, as well as three public officials from the United States and Australia, namely FBI Director Robert Mueller, FBI Special Agent Laura M. Laughlin and Adelaide University’s Vice Chancellor-cum-President, James McWha. Most other persons on the list are business partners of the Taib family, some of whom are accused of helping Taib and his immediate family members to hide significant overseas assets which are believed to be laundered proceeds of corruption and illicit business transactions
Prince Albert II of Monaco asked to cut ties with the Taibs
Prince Albert of Monaco is accused of maintaining an unduly close relationship with the Taib family. In 2008, Albert made a state visit to Sarawak, accompanied by three members of the Prince Albert II Foundation. Last year, Albert hosted a Taib-sponsored Islamic Fashion show in Monaco, during which he collected an anonymous 100,000 Euro donation for his Prince Albert II Foundation. The donation was presumably made by Taib who was on stage when Albert was given the cheque by Rosmah Mansor, the wife of the Malaysian Prime Minister.
The Bruno Manser Fund is demanding that Prince Albert cut ties with the Taib family and freeze potential Taib assets in Monaco’s banks.
FBI executives accused of whitewashing Taib family assets in the US
The highest-ranking public official on the BMF list is the head of the American federal police, FBI director Robert Mueller. He is listed together with Laura M. Laughlin, the Special Agent in charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office.
The FBI executives are blacklisted for renting the premises of the large FBI office in downtown Seattle from Wallysons Inc., a Washington state company controlled by the Malaysian Taib family. In an attempt to cover up this embarrassing relationship with one of South East Asia’s most corrupt family clans, the FBI has left several written complaints by the Bruno Manser Fund and other NGOs unanswered. In March 2011, the FBI refused to meet NGO representatives who protested in front of the FBI Seattle office against the FBI’s ties with the Taib family.
It is an embarrassment for the American people that its federal police, which ought to combat public corruption, is operating from premises owned by a notoriously kleptocratic family. The Bruno Manser Fund condemns the FBI’s role in whitewashing and legitimizing Taib family assets in the United States and is asking for an explanation.
Adelaide University’s dodgy deals with the Taibs
Pecunia non olet (“money doesn’t stink”) was the proverbial ancient Roman reply to allegations of dodgy deals and appears to have become the University of Adelaide’s motto for dealing with the Malaysian Taib family. The university has accepted large donations from Sarawak’s corrupt Chief Minister but refuses to disclose to the public just how much money Taib has spent on supporting his alma mater. This earns James McWha, the University’s Vice-President-cum-President an entry in the blacklist. The university disgracefully honoured its corrupt “long-time benefactor” in December 2008 by renaming a plaza on the university campus the “Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak Court”.
Taib Mahmud has also been made a director of the Adelaide-based “Australian Universities International Alumni Convention Pty Ltd”, which earns the company’s sole shareholder, Michael Lewis Abbott, a place on the Taib’s foreign helpers list. Abbott, a leading Adelaide barrister, is also a former chairman of the Australia-Malaysia Institute.
The Taibs’ Adelaide connection appears to go far deeper. Adelaide’s Hilton hotel, which is operated by Sitehost Pty Ltd, is fully owned by the Taib family. Sitehost’s Australian directors have also been listed by the Bruno Manser Fund’: They are John Antoine Kiosoglous (MBE), who is a former member of the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and Sydney lawyer Gary Patrick Doherty.
Besides his directorship with Sitehost, Mr. Doherty is also involved in other remarkable business activities. A AUS $5 company with the intriguing name Conceal Pty Ltd, which is run by Mr. Doherty and associates, has amazed us with its leading role in massive property developments in Western Sydney. Another person linked to Sitehost is Melbourne-based nominee companies operator Gabriel Amira, whose Golborne Pty Ltd enjoys a strong financial relationship with the Taibs’ Sitehost Pty Ltd.
Key helper Sean Murray and the Taib family real estate crew
Another director of the Australian Sitehost Pty Ltd is Sean Patrick Murray, Taib’s Canadian son-in-law. Sean is married to Taib’s daughter Jamilah; they live in Ottawa’s Rockcliffe Park in a 9.6million-dollar mansion that has been rated Ottawa’s second most expensive private home. Sean Murray is a director of the Ottawa-based Sakto corporation, chairman of the British Ridgeford Properties and president of the US-based Wallysons Inc. and Sakti International Corporation.
While Mr. Murray claims to be the owner of these companies, the Bruno Manser Fund has identified them as secret Taib-family investments, which we believe to be ultimately controlled by the Sarawak Chief Minister himself. This is why we have added Lee Gartley, Tanya Caleta, Laird J Rasmussen and Brian Murray of Sakto, as well as Christopher Timothy Murray (Sean Murray’s cousin), Kerstin Bowers, Shaun Doherty, Michael Keaveney and John Murphy of Ridgeford Properties, to the Taib’s foreign helpers list. The Taib companies run by Sean Murray are estimated at several hundred million US dollars. While British Ridgeford Properties is specialized in luxury buildings in Central London, Sakto corporation has heavily invested in office towers in Ottawa which are being rented to the Canadian and the Ontario government.
Shea Kin Kwok, the Hong Kong agent behind Taib’s timber kickbacks scheme
It is believed that the Taib family’s foreign properties have been funded by corruption money such as kickbacks cashed in from the timber industry. In 2007, the Tokyo tax authorities found out that Japanese shipping companies who exported Sarawak timber to Japan had been paying kickbacks to a Hong Kong company, Regent Star, which is closely linked to Taib’s brother Onn Mahmud. This earns Chinese national Shea Kin Kwok, founding director of Regent Star and a number of other Taib-related companies in Hong Kong, a place on the Taib’s foreign helpers list.
Former Taib aide Farok Majeed is missing
Farok Majeed is another former business associate of Onn Mahmud (Taib’s brother). He was closely involved in multi-million dollar property developments in Australia. In 2007, a New South Wales court awarded him 2.2 million AUS dollars in damages against Onn Mahmud for unpaid work by his construction company. Despite significant research and a public appeal in Sarawak, Mr. Majeed cannot be located and appears to be missing.
Mr. Majeed’s case appears to bear a striking resemblance to the case of the late Ross Boyert, a former Taib US aide who was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel in September 2010 in an unusual case of suspected suicide. Prior to his death, Mr. Boyert said he and his family had been systematically harassed ever since he had filed a civil case against his former employer, the Taibs’ US-based Sakti International Corporation.
Taib’s invisible hand on the British Virgin Islands
A number of Taib companies are linked to a mysterious PO Box 438 in Road Town, Tortola, on the British Virgin Islands. This is the postal address of Integro Trust, Equity Trust and other companies that are being handled by Taib’s invisible hand on the British Virgin Islands, Mrs. Linda Romney-Leue. Without offshore financial service providers like Mrs. Romney-Leue, it would have been much harder for the Taibs to conceal their illicit foreign assets. Astar Properties Ltd, Tess Investments Ltd, Tagus Investments Limited and CMS (Cahya Mata Sarawak) BVI are all Taib-linked companies who give Mrs. Romney-Leue’s PO Box as their mail address.
Deutsche Bank CEO Joe Ackermann blamed for joint venture with the Taibs’ Cahya Mata Sarawak
A more visible financial link is the extensive cooperation between the Taib family’s Malaysian business flagship, Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS,) and Deutsche Bank, which earns Deutsche Bank CEO Josef (“Joe”) Ackermann an entry in the Taib helpers’ list. CMS and Deutsche Bank have significant joint ventures in Malaysia, including K & N Kenanga Holdings, of which Luigi Fortunato Ghirardello and Taib’s son-in-law, Syed Ahmad Alwee Alsree, are directors.
CMS is a Sarawak-based construction conglomerate that benefits routinely from untendered public contracts from the Taib government and has made corruption the core element of its business strategy. Another foreign Taib key helper is CMS’ Group Managing Director, British national Richard Alexander John Curtis. CMS, a public company, holds net assets of 1,46 billlion Malaysian Ringgits (US $467 million); at least 85% of its shares are held by the Taib family.
Deutsche Bank has also been accused of administering the Jersey-based Sogo Holdings Inc., an alleged Taib family holding. In September 2009, the German Federal Ministry of Finance announced that German bank regulator BaFin is looking into Deutsche Bank’s Taib ties from a money-laundering compliance perspective.
Norwegian CEO assisting Taib in flooding Sarawak natives
Norwegian executive Torstein Dale Siøtveit has chosen to play one of the most problematic roles among Taib’s foreign helpers. In 2009, Mr. Siøtveit replaced Taib’s brother-in-law at the top of Sarawak Energy, the Taib-controlled electricity supplier of Malaysia’s largest state. As CEO of Sarawak Energy, Mr. Siøtveit is directly responsible for the Sarawak state government’s excessive dam plans which are threatening the livelihood of tens of thousands of natives in Sarawak’s interior. In the case of the planned Baram dam, the flooding of large Kayan, Kenyah and Penan areas would come close to cultural genocide. Taib’s dam plans are widely thought to be driven by corruption rather than by demand for electricity. The cement for the already-constructed Bakun, Murum, Batang Ai and Murum dams was provided by Taib family-linked companies that hold a state-wide cement monopoly.
Alan Friedman, Taib’s public relations man
Alan Friedman, a former US journalist and chairman of the British FBC media group, is blacklisted for having signed a three-year public relations contract with Taib to boost the latter’s tattered international reputation. Friedman was to be paid 5 million US dollars per year, but, following the disclosure of FBC’s deal with Taib by whistleblower website Sarawak Report, it appears the contract has been cancelled. Major news outlets such as CNBC and the BBC stopped broadcasting shows that had been produced by the FBC Group and were in breach of official media regulations. In one of the shows, Taib had claimed that 70 per cent of Sarawak’s forests were still intact – an outrageous lie.
Ta Ann represents Taib family logging interests in Tasmania
The Taib family is also known to hold a significant stake in the Sarawak timber industry. Ta Ann Holdings Bhd is under the directorship of Taib’s cousin Hamed Sepawi, one of Taib’s main cronies and suspected business nominees. Ta Ann’s wholly-owned Australian subsidiary is currently logging Tasmania’s native forests on behalf of the Taib family. This earns Ta Ann Tasmania’s director David Merrick Ridley a place on the Taib’s foreign helpers list.
Robert Geneid, Taib’s Australian brother-in-law
Another Australian national with a Lebanese background, Robert Geneid, is a key helper for Taib businesses inside and outside Malaysia. In Australia, Geneid holds significant stakes in Geneid Holdings Pty Ltd and Ostgro Australia Pty Ltd that operates a Taib family-linked ostrich farm in West Australia. Geneid is married to Taib’s sister Raziah, who is currently believed to be the potentate’s most favoured sibling. Raziah’s business interests in Malaysia alone are estimated at several hundred million US dollars.
Last but not least: “Stella”, Taib’s witch doctor
Taib, who is extremely superstitious, has over the years used a number of “bomohs” (witch doctors). Taib’s most important bomoh, Pakistani Ustaz Abdul Rahman Hazrat, died in 2008. Currently, his alleged main spiritual medium “Stella” is an Australian national whose full name is given as Kharleen Tashman. Before the April 2011 state election, Stella appeared in public on the occasion of Taib’s re-nomination as a candidate. This resulted in a row with Taib’s competitor, Salleh Jafaruddin, who later called for Stella and two other foreign bomohs to be expelled from Malaysia.
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Download BMF’s exclusive Taib’s foreign helpers poster under www.stop-timber-corruption.org/resources