Saturday, 25th June 2011
Sarawak Report suggests that such a probe could reveal the Taib family's Hong Kong connection to their immense wealth.
Whistleblower website Sarawak Report has suggested that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigate Abdul Taib Mahmud family's Hong Kong connection which could shed light on their immense wealth.
"...Delving into these business concerns (in Hong Kong) will throw up some intriguing coincidences, as Sarawak Report's own researches can already demonstrate.
"We can also demonstrate how a number of Taib-linked companies are now owned or being managed out of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) by one of the Philippine's top bankers Franciso C Sebastian, who started his career as a financial advisor in Hong Kong.
"We suggest that investigations in Hong Kong hold the key to tracing the early development of Taib's international web of global investments as the profits from felling Sarawak's rainforests escaped abroad."
The website, which has been targetting the long-serving Sarawak chief minister, says that MACC should start by interviewing Shea Kin Kwok a "mysterious businessman with several links to Taib family companies".
Shea's name first cropped up when the Hong Kong connection to kickbacks on Sarawak timber being shipped to Japan first broke in 1997.
Malaysiakini had at the time reported the Japan media expose of a number of companies that had allegedly paid Regent Star, a Hong Kong-based paper manufacturing company reportedly linked to Taib and his family, RM32 million in kickbacks for receiving export permits for timber.
Taib subsequently sued Malaysiakini for carrying reports on the timber scandal.
Sarawak Report says it "has now confirmed that (Shea) was in fact the paid secretary to Taib's brother Onn Mahmud".
"His job was to manage Achi Jaya company affairs out of Hong Kong, in particular to control the Achi Jaya linked companies into which payments (for the timber arrangement) were being made."
Maze of companies
Achi Jaya Transportation Sdn Bhd is a majority shareholder in Dewan Niaga (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, a company that Taib as forestry minister had appointed in 1981 to be the sole agent for timber shipments out of the state.
"The links were glaring," said the website.
"Taib had put his brother Onn's Achi Jaya Corporation in charge of issuing export licences for timber from Sarawak, and another company Regent Star, run by Onn's secretary, was receiving the kickbacks in Hong Kong," it alleged.
It pointed out that Regent Star and Achi Jaya were incorporated the same year.
Shea and another individual, Kho Eng Beng, owned 50 percent each of Regent Star, and the duo "owned and directed" a number of other Hong Kong companies - Grand Will Limited (incorporated 1984), Grand Shine Trading (1983), Herolite investment (1983), Natalite (1983) and Wittaker Company Ltd (1985).
Sarawak Report later argues that Onn is linked to four of these companies and ultimately traces it to Sebastian, asking if the Filipino banker was "acting as an advisor and trustee for Onn Mahmud" to move funds from Hong Kong to tax-haven British Virgin Islands.
Following the money trail
"Another company, Richfold Investment Ltd, was especially interesting, because it was incorporated on the same day and registered at the same office as Regent Star, and again Shea was a director and shareholder."
It has been previously reported that Taib Mahmud's brother Onn Mahmud held 49,998 shares in the company with Shea holding just one.
Sarawak Report then traces events following the exposure of the 2007 timber scandal in relation to all these Hong Kong companies.
"After the kickback scandal broke, an awful lot of coincidences occurred. Grand Will Limited and Regent Star Company Ltd were both dissolved on the same day - Nov 9, 2007.
"On the other hand, Richfold stayed active for another few months, until it too was closed on May 9, 2008."
A month later on Dec 21, 2007, it explains, Grand Will and Regent Star both reopened on the same day, under different directors and shareholders, while a third company, TESS Limited HK also set up.
SR notes how TESS's name is similar to a British Virgin Islands registered company TESS Investments, that it says has been funding Taib's family's investments in the United Kingdom through Ridgeford Properites Ltd.
Another coincidence, notes Sarawak Report, is that TESS Investments was incorporated on Oct 23, 1996 - the day before Ridgeford Properties run by Taib's son-in-law Sean Murray was incorporated in the UK.
Pandora's PO Box
The 'PO Box 438' in British Virgin Islands appears to be a critical link in this intricate web of companies, argues Sarawak Report.
Ridgeford Properties' original shareholder Astar Properties is registered at the same address. The latter coincidentally shares the name of one of the shareholders of a Taib family company Sitehost Pty, that owns the Adelaide Hilton in Australia.
The Australian company Astar has "a non-existent address in Guernsey", notes Sarawak Report.
Also sharing 'PO Box 438' is a trust company under the Taib family's company Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMS), a conglomerate that used to own RHB Bank.
Some of the key owners of CMS are Taib's immediate family members - his late wife Laila (11.23%), daughters Hanifah Hajar (13.85 percent) and Jamilah Hamidah (13.64 percent), and sons Sulaiman (8.94 percent) and Abu Bakir (8.92 percent).
Sarawak Report also reveals that a search of a registered shareholder of TESS Limited HK, a certain TOA Services (British Virgin Islands), also shares the same PO box address.
"Our investigations show, however, that there is no actual company of that name in BVI (British Virgin Islands)," says Sarawak Report.
Too many coincidences
The anti-Taib website says all its investigations suggest a "connection between money taken in by Richfold Investments Ltd in Hong Kong and money paid out to Ridgeford Properties Ltd in the United Kingdom via PO Box 438 BVI (British Virgin Islands)", challenging Taib to deny the links.
It reiterated that Taib needed to explain handing control of the timber shipping licences to his own brother's company while denying any wrongdoing.
This, it said, was especially pertinent, "when millions in shipping kickbacks are discovered to have been extracted by another company owned by his brother's secretary".
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