How About Auditing Bigger Fish Instead?
Aliran Monthly 2004:2
For example, many know that the Chief Minister (CM) of Sarawak since 1981, Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family, has a rags to riches story. Abdul Taib Mahmud insists his family made their money via hard work in business. But many observers remain sceptical and wonder how his siblings and children came into all that wealth, both locally and overseas.
Born into impoverished circumstances in 1936, Abdul Taib Mahmud is an ethnic Muslim-Melanau who traces an aristocratic link to the Royal Court of Brunei. But since becoming CM, Taib has been previously described, at various times, by the international media in the following terms: He is “flamboyant with expensive tastes” and is said to have “purchased the piano of the late American showman Liberace for close to US$2 million”. He “lives in a well-guarded palatial home in Kuching and rides in a cream-coloured Rolls Royce. A dapper dresser, he is partial to double-breasted suits and sports a ring with a walnut-sized red gem surrounded by small diamonds”. Presently, he lives in a palatial private estate outside Kuching along Jalan Bako in a choice location called Demak Laut fronting the Sarawak river.
In the late-1980s, clients loyal to Taib collectively were estimated to control 1.6 million hectares of timber concessions. By 2000, Mahmud family members had major investments not only in Sarawak and Malaysia but also in other parts of the world.
Abdul Taib Mahmud’s spouse, Laila Taib, and his children are the majority shareholders of Sitehost Pty. Ltd., Australia, a company which owns the Adelaide Hilton Hotel. Company records dated December 2000 show them holding 95 percent of the company or 9.5 million fully paid up shares of Sitehost. Onn Mahmud (Taib Mahmud’s brother), Taib’s daughter Jamilah Hamidah Taib and her husband Sean Murray, are listed as director-shareholders of SAKTO Corporation, a major real estate operator of non-residential buildings in Ottawa, owning and managing over half a million square feet of prime office space with affiliate offices in the US, Asia, the UK and Australia. As well, they own SAKTO Development Corporation, a multi-million dollar development and construction company in Ottawa, while Jamilah is the sole director of SAKTO Investment Corporation.
Now, it may well be that the Mahmud family is one of the best and most astute business families in Malaysia. And more power to them on that account. But much of their known wealth has arisen during the tenure of Abdul Taib Mahmud as Sarawak CM. Is there then any wonder why there exists so much public scepticism about the sources of Abdul Taib Mahmud’s family wealth? Would not a transparent audit do well to quash such obviously unscrupulous rumours once and for all? - Libau Rentap
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