Friday, March 11, 2011

Divorce, Sarawak-style


Even if Taib Mahmud wants to keep a low profile, he cannot avoid the full glare of publicity. The demand by Taib’s daughter-in-law for her estranged husband (Taib’s elder son) to pay her RM400 million has put the wealth of the Sarawak chief minister’s family in the spotlight at a time of growing scrutiny ahead of state polls. Shahnaz Majid (Malaysian jazz queen Sheila Majid’s sister) is claiming RM100 million in alimony and RM300 million in matrimonial property from Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, according to divorce papers she filed on February 21, 2011. She told the Syariah Court the amount was reasonable because they have been married for over 19 years and her husband earns a high income as well as owns properties worth billions of ringgit. Shahnaz also sought to have Mahmud Abu Bekir’s assets – among which she listed seven luxury cars, thousands of hectares of land in Sarawak and shares in 15 companies – declared joint property and for it to be halved. This lady is financially knowledgeable – after all, she holds an MBA in Finance and at one time she was a director of the family-owned CMSB. Like it or not, the rich and famous will always draw attention to themselves.

Anyway, coming back to the above, I cannot even begin to imagine how fabulously wealthy Taib is. His vast family fortune is revealed in this article in Free Malaysia Today, posted on February 21, 2011(Webpage
http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2011/02/21/freeze-taib-familys-assets-abroad/) – forty-nine global companies in eight countries are linked to Taib Mahmud and his family. A considerable number of these companies are active in the real estate and property sector, and they are worth millions, if not billions of US Dollars. This list included 13 Malaysian companies and firms in Australia (ten), Canada (nine), Hongkong (seven), US (four), British Virgin Islands (three) and Jersey (one). More details are obtainable at webpage http://stop-timber-corruption.org/resources/black_list_taib_assets_2011_02_21.pdf.

Among the Malaysian companies, the most notable is the Taib family-owned Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad (CMSB) which incidentally is the state’s largest private company, and the Ta Ann logging group. The other companies listed are Sakto, an Ottawa-based property developer and London-based Ridgeford Properties which deals in high-end realty. Also on the list is Wallysons Inc, the owners of the FBI Northwestern Regional Headquarters building in Seattle.
Protesters in front of Jamilah Taib’s mansion at Rockcliffe, Canada. Jamilah (Taib's daughter) is a founding director of Sakto Corp and a major shareholder of Cahaya Mata Sarawak (CMS). Photo credit: http://www.stop-timber-corruption.org/campaign_update/?show=8.
Locked doors: Anti-Taib corruption campaigners in front of the FBI office at 1110, Third Avenue in Seattle. Photo image: http://www.stop-timber-corruption.org/campaign_update/?show=10.

For years, the alternative media has been highlighting claims of corruption involving Taib Mahmud and yet there is no one single initiative by the federal government or by then ACA and present MACC to investigate the matter. Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) president Haris Ibrahim issued a statement: “Taib has been accused of milking Sarawak’s wealth at the expense of its people by abusing his positions as finance minister and chief minister to make sure that almost all state contracts go to companies that he and his family own”.

But Taib is untouchable – at least, for now. Najib won’t do anything – Taib is just too valuable because Sarawak is expected to deliver most of the parliamentary and state seats to BN in both the coming federal and state elections. Najib is dependent on Taib for his own political survival.

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