Canadian court to hear money-laundering case against Taib Mahmud-linked company

Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund says it has presented documented proof of Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud's businesses in Canada and Malaysia, forensic accountants' reports on his family enterprises, and others to a Canadian court. – EPA pic, September 20, 2017.

THE Ontario Superior Court in Canada has ruled that a sealed money-laundering case against a real estate group linked to Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud will be heard publicly, the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) said today.

The Swiss environmental group is taking legal action against the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial Corporation and Deloitte & Touche to obtain financial records of the Ottawa-based Sakto Corporation, which was set up in 1983 by Jamilah Taib Murray, with a gift from her father as start-up capital.

The group wants a court order that will compel the banks and auditors to disclose beneficial ownership information and records to show the flow of funds from Malaysia into the Taib family’s Canadian real estate group. 

Under Canadian law, private corporations are not required to publicly disclose their shareholders.

BMF said never before had such an order – Norwich Pharmacal order – had been granted to plaintiffs seeking to initiate a privately instituted criminal prosecution.

In a YouTube video uploaded yesterday, BMF director Lukas Straumann explained the organisation’s legal action in Canada against the Taib family, which he described as “extremely powerful, extremely rich and extremely corrupt”. 

Taib is the governor of Sarawak and was previously chief minister for over 30 years.

“Jamilah, at 23 years old, started a multimillion dollar business with money from her father said to be legitimately earned. We say it was gained through corruption, stolen money,” Lukas said in the less than two-minute video.

“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,” he said.

BMF claims that Taib had abused his power to enrich himself and his closest family members who own stakes in over 400 companies in 25 jurisdictions.

The group has reportedly filed with the Ontario Superior Court a Statement of Claim, a Factum, a Notice of Motion and an Affidavit by Straumann with 140 exhibits, including books, video statements and over 2,000 pages of records detailing Taib’s abuse of public office and the massive enrichment of his closest family members.

The court papers contain details of the timber licenses and land leases for plantations allegedly awarded to companies owned beneficially by either himself or family members; alleged payments of kickbacks in exchange for awarding timber contracts and land leases; and alleged bribe payments for the exporting, processing and transportation side of the timber business.

The documents also contain details of lucrative public construction contracts allegedly awarded to companies controlled by Taib but the work was completed at a fraction of the cost by other companies; and arrangements of his family’s takeover of the largest public infrastructure company in Malaysia.

BMF said it was presenting documented proof of Taib’s businesses in Canada and Malaysia, forensic accountants’ reports on his family enterprises, and others.

The group said although there was no ruling on the merits of the case yet, Justice F.L. Myers, in his endorsement, demonstrated that the court was taking the issue seriously.

“If the plaintiffs’ evidence is correct, there may be very significant criminal misconduct being committed here in aid of corrupt foreign official(s). 

“There may be no one else here who is interested in uncovering the truth whether it has to do with criminality here, corruption abroad that Canadians are facilitating, or deforestation and destruction of indigenous habitat and culture in Malaysia,” the judge had reportedly said.

In March this year, a BMF report was presented in Canadian Parliament claiming that the Taib family had channelled at least C$69.8 million (RM232 million) to Sakto’s groups of companies.

The report noted that Taib had said in an interview he gave Jamilah an undisclosed sum – taken from the gratuity he received after resigning from the federal government in 1981 – to start her business in Ottawa.

A month before that, BMF published an 85-page research report titled “Safe Haven Canada”, which identified numerous money-laundering red flags in connection with Sakto’s business activities in Canada.

Sakto’s president, Jamilah’s husband Sean Murray, wrote a letter to the Toronto Star in 2014 denying that Taib was involved in the company. He revealed that the company’s shareholders were Jamilah and three other family members, including Taib’s brother Onn Mahmud.

Sakto’s current assets are estimated at C$200 million (RM682.87 million), not counting its subsidiaries and related businesses in Britain, the United States, Australia and Malaysia, the Ottawa Citizen website reported in April. – September 20, 2017.

Sign up or sign in here to comment.