A CANADIAN business linked to billionaire Malaysian politician Abdul Taib Mahmud will face court in Toronto over alleged money laundering.
The Swiss anti-corruption NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) is suing three Canadian banks and an auditing firm to disclose financial information regarding the CAD250 million (US$203 million) real estate firm Sakto Corporation owned by Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud’s daughter Jamilah Taib Murray.
A judge at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled that the case – initially sealed – will be heard in public.
BMF released an investigation earlier this year which claimed that the Taib family had “secretly channelled” US$23.6 million into Sakto over the first ten years of its operations, after being incorporated in the Canadian city of Ottawa in 1983.
It claims that Canadian public prosecutors have failed to investigate and charge Sakto for money laundering, and thus is suing the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial Corporation and Deloitte & Touche to release the company’s financial records.
The BMF report entitled Safe Haven Canada alleges that Sakto was established with the proceeds of corruption, noting that Jamilah Taib established the multimillion-dollar business aged only 23.
The investigation states that “it remains totally unclear where Laila Taib [Taib Mahmud’s late wife] who had no independent income could have legally earned her share of the CAD20 million dollars that were lent to Sakto.”
Sakto Corporation told Asian Correspondent in March that the allegations by BMF were “false, malicious and sensationalised.”
“The organisation’s rehashed and repackaged allegations have been found to be lacking and never substantiated by a government or authoritative body,” it said.
Taib Mahmud ruled resource-rich Malaysian state of Sarawak as Chief Minister 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 the state’s political elites and their cronies have systemically siphoned off timber revenue to enrich their own personal fortunes.
The Sakto case follows a string of probes by BMF into the Taib family, 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.
According to the NGO’s executive director Lukas Straumann, “the Taib family are extremely powerful, extremely rich, and they are extremely corrupt.”
“Sakto Corporation is a reputable, local Canadian Company whose officers, directors and shareholders are Canadian,” said the company in an email to Asian Correspondent.
“The company is led by a local family known for being community supporters and philanthropists.”