Malaysians are familiar with Taib Mahmud, the former Sarawak Chief Minister turned Governor. Accusations of corruption and illegal logging follow that guy like a shadow. Naturally, some of the attention would be focused on his family, right? This time, Taib’s daughter Jamilah Taib Murray is in the spotlight.
‘Princess’ Jamilah, she was nicknamed in college because of her immense wealth, is the eldest of Taib’s four children. She had moved to Canada to study, where met her husband Sean Murray. The elite couple move in high social circles and own a mansion in Rockcliffe Park, which was named Ottawa’s second most expensive house (est C$9.6 mil) in 2009. Now, Jamilah is being investigated by Canadian authorities for corruption.
Bbubuubut Canada is generally perceived as squeaky clean, how could Malaysian-related corruption have happened right under their polite noses?? \O.O/
A Swiss NGO is trying to expose how Jamilah became so RRRRICH
The Swiss NGO is Bruno Manser Fonds (BMF)… ringing any bells? They are an organisation dedicated to saving tropical rainforests, named after Swiss activist Bruno Manser, who mysteriously disappeared in Sarawak’s vast expanse in May 2000. BMF has a long history of hounding Jamilah’s old man on suspicions of illegal logging.
So, BMF wants to expose where Jamilah’s real estate company Sakto Corporation gets its money. It wants to know the secret to her company’s success. If somebody could just do that with KFC’s 11 herbs and spices already, that’d be great.
Now, on to Sakto Corportation. Jamilah started the company in 1983 “with the help of family and friends”, she says, when she was only 23 years old. Today, Sakto Corporation is one of biggest players in Ottawa real estate.
“… when I was looking for an apartment, I stumbled into my first foray into real estate and I was smitten. With the practical, firsthand experience I received – getting the property inspected, negotiating the financing – I was dedicated to making this my profession.” – Jamilah Taib Murray on her website
BMF alleges that Jamilah started Sakto Corporation with money given by daddy dearest. Not only that, it grew extremely quickly, despite “continuous operational losses and a resulting capital deficiency that had risen to C$9.43 mil by 1993”. Maybe it was a “continuous capital influx from its shareholders”, maybe it’s Maybelline. BMF believes it is the former.
The NGO released an investigation last year which claimed the Taib family “secretly channelled” C$29.8 mil into the company over the first 10 years of its operations. Sakto’s shareholders are the Taibs, which include Jamilah herself and her uncle Onn Mahmud, claims BMF. However, in an email to Asian Correspondent, the company stated: “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.”
Here’s the thing, Jamilah is a Canadian citizen now. Her husband Sean accidentally let slip that she has dual citizenship, oops, and she is still registered as a voter in Sarawak. It is an offence to hold 2 passports and be citizens of both countries according to Malaysian law. Kenot kenot kenot.
*All this info can be found in BMF’s 86-page report. Don’t freak at the dark, creepy photo of Jamilah on the cover page, just scroll on.
Chup, chup, what’s wrong if a father wants to give his daughter money?
So Taib Mahmud gave Jamilah money to start her own company and keep it afloat despite its (alleged) losses, so what? Can’t a dad give his own daughter some cash? But BMF alleges there is a problem with that because the funds came from the ex-CM’s years of corruption and abuse of public office… all of which is linked to the pillaging of timber from Borneo’s rainforests!
Ya’ll probably already know this stuff, but here’s a quick background – in his 33 years leading the resource rich state, Taib Mahmud allegedly lost 90% of the country’s rainforests to logging. Watchdogs claim they siphoned off timber revenue into their own pockets, and by 2012, the family’s estimated assets were worth US$21 billion (RM64 billion).
During his son, Mahmud Abu Bekir’s high profile divorce with Shahnaz Abdul Majid, she spilled everything. In the end, Mahmud admitted he is a billionaire after previously insisting the figure was grossly inflated using “flawed” accounting. Today, the family owns stakes in 400 companies in 25 countries and offshore jurisdictions.
Jamilah has denied BMF’s allegations:
“The assertions made by this foreign activist group are false, malicious and sensationalised. The organisation’s rehashed and repackaged allegations have been found to be lacking in merit and never substantiated by any government or authoritative body.” – Sakto’s email response to Ottawa Citizen
“My children make money, yes, quite big, I don’t know what they said, hundred million is correct, property in Canada. But it all started, I gave money to my daughter. I was resigning from Federal Government. I got gratuity. I put that, ok one for her, I give some money to her. Started new business. It thrived. It’s a property development company.” – Taib Mahmud said in this video
Anyway, BMF sued the people with Sakto’s financial records
Since 2010, BMF has repeatedly alerted Canada’s financial intelligence unit FINTRAC (detects and stops money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities), Canadian police and the government on the flow of funds from Sarawak to Ottawa. Despite assurances from Canadian authorities, BMF’s Director Lukas Straumann said there were no results. Ultimately, the NGO decided to go to court themselves.
“We have sued three banks in Canada. We want the bank records of Sakto, Jamilah’s company, to be released to us because we are considering to prosecute the company privately. No public prosecutor has gone after the company for alleged money-laundering, so as a private organisation, we have to do it.” – Lukas Straumann, BMF Director, on YouTube
The banks are the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial Corporation, plus they also sued auditor Deloitte. BMF is hoping to get a court order to force these flers to disclose Sakto’s financial and beneficial ownership records. You see, Canadian private corporations are not required to publicly disclose their shareholders.
BMF has submitted a bunch of documents (including 2,000 pages of records omg!) to the Ontario Superior Court. These court papers contain details (if true, would be) juicier than People’s magazine – timber licenses and land leases allegedly awarded to companies owned Taib or family members… alleged kickbacks for awarding timber contracts and land leases… alleged bribes for exporting, processing and transporting timber, oh my!
Aside from stirring things up in the Great White North, the NGO has been making headlines in the Land Down Under. According to BMF, Sakto has a bunch of other subsidiaries and affiliated companies in the US, UK, the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Jersey, Malaysia and Australia. So, the group has been urging Aussie authorities to act against Taib’s interests there too.
The Canadians are taking it more seriously now
The first court hearing took place in Toronto on 21 Aug 2017. This is the first time such a court order has been granted for a privately initiated criminal prosecution. More importantly, it will set a standard for financial disclosure for private prosecutions in future.
After that, a judge of the Ontario Superior Court ordered that the case be heard in public. Although the court hasn’t ruled on the merits of the case yet, Lukas thinks the language used by the judge appears positive.
“If the plaintiffs’ evidence is correct, there may be very significant criminal misconduct being committed here in aid of corrupt foreign official(s).” – Justice F. L. Myers of the Ontario Superior Court, Free Malaysia Today
The case goes on.