RESPONDING to explosive allegations of large-scale financial crime originating in Malaysia, the Canadian company at the centre of a corruption scandal on Friday denied any wrongdoing.
Sakto Corporation, the property development firm owned by the family of former Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, wrote in an emailed statement to Asian Correspondent that the allegations by Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF) were “false, malicious and sensationalised”.
“Sakto Corporation is a reputable, local Canadian Company whose officers, directors and shareholders are Canadian. The company is led by a local family known for being community supporters and philanthropists,” the response by company spokesman Thady B. Murray said.
“The organisation’s rehashed and repackaged allegations have been found to be lacking and never substantiated by a government or authoritative body.
Thady is the elder brother of CEO Sean Murray. Sean Murray is married to company founder and Taib’s daughter Jamilah Taib, who is at the centre of the allegations. Taib and his family have long faced widespread allegations of illegally profiting from logging in the resource-rich Malaysian state in Borneo.
Thady himself is named in documents released by BMF’s Stop Timber Corruption campaign.
BMF had on Thursday presented a report to the Canadian Parliament entitled Safe Haven Canada: How a corrupt Malaysian official’s family acquired $200 million in Ontario real estate alleging that the Taib-affiliated company Sakto Corporation, based in the Canadian capital of Ottawa, had been established and continues to be financed through misappropriated funds.
According to the report, Jamilah and her husband Sean “might be involved in money-laundering on behalf of the Taib family.”
The 86-page research provided thorough examination of the business dealings of the Taib family members and their Canadian associates, looking at how Canadian properties in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec were acquired by the family using proxies and “in trust” arrangements.
The report also showed how these assets were moved between various offshore companies to deliberately hide beneficial ownership.
It follows a string of probes by the Swiss organisation, including a report from 2015, which alleged the Taib-owned Australian company Sitehost – owner of Adelaide’s AUD50million (US$38 million) Hilton Hotel – had been used to launder tens of millions of dollars.
Taib ruled resource-rich Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo between 1981 and 2014, making him the second-longest serving parliamentarian in Malaysian history. Sarawakians call Taib Pak Uban or “white-haired uncle” or Pek Moh (white hair), and he has been referred to as the “last white rajah.”
During the period of his rule, Taib’s family became extremely wealthy and by 2011 had amassed assets in 14 Malaysian companies worth some US$1.4 billion. Today, it owns stakes in 400 companies in 25 countries and offshore jurisdictions.
For decades, the now-governor of Sarawak and his family have been accused of corruption. Watchdogs claim political figures and their cronies have systemically siphoned off timber revenue to enrich their own personal fortunes.