NGOs call on Malaysian authorities to freeze Taib assets, reopen anti-corruption probe 

Following the death of Abdul Taib Mahmud (“Taib”), the former long-term Chief Minister and Governor of the Malaysian state of Sarawak, Swiss environmental and human rights group Bruno Manser Fonds calls on Malaysia’s political leadership and judiciary to freeze Taib’s assets and reopen investigations into the origin of Taib’s and his closest family members’ enormous wealth. 

“We call on Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to reopen its investigation into Taib assets which was closed in 2016 for political reasons”, said Lukas Straumann, the Executive Director of the Bruno Manser Fonds in Basel, Switzerland. “All of Taib’s personal bank accounts and other assets should be frozen immediately to prevent that illicitly acquired wealth might be appropriated by family members.” 

During his 60-year tenure as a public servant, Taib acquired an enormous wealth despite constitutional prohibitions for the Sarawak Chief Minister and Governor to get involved in commercial enterprise. In 2021, a legal opinion commissioned by the Bruno Manser Fonds found that Taib’s involvement as a director and shareholder of Malaysian company Ramah Jelita Sdn Bhd had breached the Sarawak constitution. The company was involved in land deals in Sarawak.  

Taib has also been accused of abuse of public office and corruption when allowing the privatization of CMS, Sarawak’s largest state-owned company, into the hands of his closest family members in the early 1990s. During Taib’s tenure as Chief Minister, CMS benefited from public contracts worth over MYR 4.9 billion (USD 1.4 billion).  

During Taib’s tenure, Sarawak lost most of its primary rainforests: In the 1960s, 90% of Sarawak was still covered with primary forests while today less than 10% remain intact. Taib’s promotion of industrial logging and plantations was met with fierce resistance by indigenous communities who protested against the disrespect of their customary rights. 

The 87-year old politician passed away on Wednesday less than a month after his replacement as Governor of the Malaysian state in Borneo. Taib’s widow and sons are litigating in a Malaysian court over access to his enormous wealth.