Sarawak's White-Haired Rajah
The Sarawak Report, an NGO based in the east Malaysian state, has uncovered exhaustive evidence that the chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, has looted Sarawak of hundreds of millions of US dollars and hidden the wealth in Canada, the UK, Australia and the United States. Asia Sentinel is pleased to print the latest of the Sarawak Report’s examinations of the Taib family’s wealth.
The Sarawak Report has uncovered additional documents that lay bare a system of private deals that enabled Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud to conceal his true ownership of the properties. This was presumably in order to hide the extent of his enormous wealth, for which he has yet to provide any legitimate explanation.
Under the system, while it is Taib‟s relatives who are publicly registered as the official shareholders and directors of the companies owning the properties, a separate, private agreement ensures that the shares are actually held in trust for him. Download PDF.
Documentary evidence of elaborate concealment
Among documents in its possession Sarawak Report has a copy of one such private agreement relating to the shares in Sakti International, a company that owns buildings in San Francisco. Sakti is part of a web of companies started in North America by the Taibs, which includes Sakto, a major Ottawa property company, and Wallysons, which owns the Abraham Lincoln Building in Seattle, housing a top secret anti-terrorist facility for the FBI.
The five official shareholders of Sakti International, which is registered in California, are Taib's brothers, Onn Mahmud and Arip Mahmud, along with three of his children, Sulaiman Taib, Mahmud Taib and Jamilah Taib. However, as the document which we have obtained shows, a resolution made soon after the formation of the company has privately ruled that half those shares, a commanding majority, are held in trust for the Chief Minister. The value of these shares amounts to US$40 million for Sakti alone, according to the company‟s documents.
Tip of the iceberg?
However, Sakti International, estimated to be worth US$80 million, accounts for just a small proportion of the Taib family wealth. Our previous exposes have revealed a vast portfolio of further international property assets owned by members of Taib Mahmud‟s immediate family. For example, Taib's own children are the shareholders and directors of numerous companies controlling residential and commercial buildings in Canada, Australia, Britain and the United States together worth hundreds of millions of US dollars. Yet many of these assets came into their possession when they were in their early 20s and still college students with no visible access to legitimate resources to invest. The inevitable question for Taib Mahmud, therefore, is whether, as in the case of Sakti International, they are also secretly holding these other properties in trust for him? If not, what explanation can there be for these investments?
A number of reports have been made to the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) regarding the recent disclosures of the Taib family wealth. These new revelations proving the direct link to the Chief Minister will increase the pressure on the MACC to respond with a proper investigation.
The Sakti International documents in our possession, released as part of the disclosure in a recent court case, provide further extensive evidence of Taib Mahmud‟s involvement in the company, despite his denials of any business connections. Indeed one of the company‟s earliest official documents, signed in 1987, lists him as one of the Directors of Sakti International.
Chief Minister's name in black and white, listed as a Director Of Sakti International
The document in question is a Domestic Stock Corporation Statement for Sakti International, which is required annually by the State of California. In 1987, the year the company was set up, its inaugural statement clearly registered Taib Mahmud, along with his brothers Onn Mahmud and Arip Mahmud, as a director of the company. The only officer of the company is listed as Mahmud Taib, the Chief Minister's eldest son.
It is well-known that in subsequent Taib family enterprises the Chief Minister has always scrupulously avoided including his own name in any documentation. This early mistake will undermine his constant claims that, in keeping with his role as Chief Minister, he has no direct business interests. It is clear that he in fact set up Sakti International, using the address of his own house in San Francisco. Download PDF
Subsequently, records show that the structure of the company was altered to make Onn, Arip and Mahmud Taib the three Directors, while Rahman became the only officer of the company. But, as we are now able to exclusively report, Taib Mahmud secretly retained his control through a resolution by the company directors dated April 8th 1988. This resolution (see top) placed 500 of the 1,000 shares issued by the company in trust for him.
The Sakti documents give insight into the methods used by Taib Mahmud to control his family members, who are supposedly the earners and "businessmen" who have generated the Taibs' legendary wealth. The five relatives who were selected to own shares in Sakti International were each given a different number of shares. Each then surrendered differing proportions of these shares to be held in trust for the Chief Minister.
Brother Onn Mahmud gets 400 shares, but of them 200 are held for the Chief Minister, whereas brother Arip gets just 200 shares, 100 of which are in trust for Taib. Mahmud Taib has the same arrangement as Arip. However younger brother, Sulaiman Rahman Taib, who was later made sole director of Sakti, only gets 100 shares under the agreement and they are all in fact held in trust for his father. Daughter Jamilah also only gets 100 shares, but she gets to hold them all herself.
The system ensures that Taib Mahmud has half of all the shares held in trust for himself, whereas none of the others hold more than 200 shares. In this way he clearly keeps a commanding control over the company he pretends not to own.
Taib in charge
Former employees of Sakti have testified to the controlling position the Chief Minister holds over the other members of the family. Rahman, as he was known in the States, was still in college when he became sole director of Sakti and has been described as being in awe of his father, with whom he reportedly once had to wait a week to get a meeting.
"We always considered Taib to be the ultimate boss and decision-maker" one former executive has told Sarawak Report, "It was obvious that he was the source of the money and Rahman was extremely deferential towards him".
Where did the money come from?
The Chief Minister has so far made no comment on the string of recent exposes regarding his wealth. However, this new evidence will increase the widespread demands for him to explain how he and his family accrued the millions necessary to acquire such investments. Taib's personal salary from his numerous concurrent positions still only delivers an official income of just under 50,000 MYR (around US $16,000) a month.
In past weeks the existence of Ridgeford Properties in London and Sakto Corporation in Ontario, Canada have also been made public (see previous exposes on Sarawak Report). These companies own and manage numerous office blocks worth hundreds of millions of dollars. On paper the directors and owners of these concerns are Jamilah Taib and her husband Sean (Hisham) Murray, a Canadian national. However, like Sakti, Sakto was originally set up under the names of Taib family members, not Murray.
Although numerous members of Sean Murray's family now work for Sakto, all the evidence indicates that they are in fact Taib family businesses, ultimately controlled by the Chief Minister of Sarawak.
Surely the weight of evidence is now such that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission will be unable to ignore the deluge of demands requiring thorough investigation into Sarawak's White Haired Raja?