Global Witness’s explosive exposé has lead to an international NGO push for the shut down of numerous Sarawak companies. Read more below.
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The fallout from a video by Global Witness exposing widespread corruption in Sarawak continues, as the Bruno Manser Fund, a European NGO, has called on the Companies Commission of Malaysia to “de-reigster” land corporations highlighted in the video. The video purports to connect the head of Sarawak, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, to illegal land deals on indigenous territory.
“The two companies, Billion Venture Sdn Bhd and Ample Agro Sdn Bhd, were exposed last week by Global Witness in a secretly recorded film. In the film, two Taib cousins and two lawyers blatantly admitted that the two companies are being used to illegally enrich the family and a crony of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud by selling off state-owned land to foreign investors,” the press release from the Bruno Manser Fund reads.
One of the lawyers caught on tape actually says that in order for foreign investors to purchase land they would have to put up a 10 percent kickback for the Taib. Others in the video talk flippantly about employing tax evasion and bribery in land deals, noting repeatedly that “it’s been done before.”
Billion Venture Sdn Bhd is currently embroiled in a court dispute over lands with three indigenous tribes in Sarawak, the Kelabit, Penan and Lun Bawang.
Outside observers have long alleged that Sarawak’s government, headed by Taib Mahmud for over 30 years, is built on widespread corruption, often at expense of the state’s long-oppressed indigenous peoples. However, Taib himself, who is currently under investigation by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), denied any connection to the video.
“I saw the so-called proof. Could it not be someone trying to promote themselves to become an agent to get favors from me?” he told journalist Liza Bong when asked about the video. “It has nothing to do with me right? I think it is a bit naughty of them for using their big power to blacken my name.”
He added, “They are trying to frame me.”
Another NGO, Transparency Watchdog, has asked for Taib to immediately step down from his post.