When Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud told longhouses residents in Sungai Aup, Sibu, in 2010 that he had ‘more money than he can ever spend’, people understood that he was rich. But how rich, was anyone’s guess.
Earlier today, Swiss-based NGO, Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), threw some light when it released its report: The Taib Timber Mafia. Facts and Figures on Politically Exposed Persons from Sarawak, Malaysia.
According to the report, Taib and his 20-member family clan are collectively worth US$21 billion (RM64 billion).
Taib himself is worth US$15 billion (RM45 billion) and, according to the report, “is the richest man in Malaysia”… his wealth having been derived from “plundering the state during his three decades as Chief Minister of Sarawak”.
It further explains why Umno and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak cannot muscle old man Taib out of his decades-old political seat.
Also wallowing in wealth are Taib’s better known siblings Onn Mahmud, Tufail Mahmud, Raziah Mahmud and his children Mahmud Bekir, Sulaiman Rahman, Jamilah and Hanifah. Also in this elite loop is his first cousin Hamid Sepawi.
Lesser known to the masses are Taib’s 12 other clan members, also “business magnets” worth millions in US dollar.
Disclosing these financial details in a 45-page report released in Brussels in conjunction with the visit of the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister, Bernard Dompok, to the European Union, BMF noted that “godfather” Taib and his family may have more “assets hidden in offshore districts”, which may be untraceable.
“The facts and figures of the Taib family are merely the tip of the iceberg as many family assets are likely to be hidden overseas or in offshore districts where information is virtually impossible to obtain.”
But the extensive research into Taib’s business in Malaysia and overseas had, however, uncovered the vast dimensions of the family’s illicit assets.
“This report aims to build up international pressure against the corrupt Taib family and provide investigating bodies, journalists, Sarawakians and interested parties with detailed evidence on the Taib financial empire.
“The report also aims to demonstrate the financial and political control that Taib has over Sarawak and provides profiles on the chief minister and his family members, all of whom have financially benefited from the destruction of Sarawak’s rainforest,” it said.
The reports claimed that Taib abused his position as chief minister, state finance minister, and planning and resources minister, to award his family members with timber and palm oil concessions, state contracts and directorships in Sarawak’s largest companies.
It notes that in 2009, his three ministries controlled 49.6% of the state’s operating expenditure of RM1.19 billion (US% 391 million) and 80% of the state’s development expenditure of RM3.08 billion (US$1.01 billion), with the other 10 ministers sharing the rest.
Also sharing the billionaire tag with a net worth of US%1.5 billion (RM4.5 billion) and US$1 billion (RM3 billion) respectively were Taib’s elder son Mahmud Bekir and his Canada-based socialite daughter Jamilah Taib-Murray.
His two other children – the “invisible” Kota Samarahan MP, Sulaiman Rahman, is worth US$300 million (RM900 million) while and daughter Hanifah has US$400 million (RM1.2 billion) to her name.
Taib’s sibling Onn Mahmud has an alleged net worth of US$1.5 billion (RM4.5 billion) and is the second richest man in Malaysia, while his other brother Tufail has US$600 million (RM1.8 billion) and sister Raziah is worth US$500 million (RM1.5 billion).
Other siblings noted in the report are Arip Mahmud who is worth US$100 million (RM300 million), Ibrahim Mahmud and Ali Mahmud at US$20 million (RM60 million) each. His sister Ferdahanum and Zaleha are worth US$10 million (RM30 million) each while the net worth of another sister Aisah Zainab is not known.
Also mentioned in the report is Taib’s cousin Hamid Sepawi who made the Forbes Asia 2012 list . Hamid, who is the founder of Ta Ann Group, a timber conglomerate, is worth US$175 million (RM535 million), according to the list.
Next in line is Taib’s in-laws.
His daughter Jamilah’s husband, Sean Murray, is worth US$10 million (RM30 million) while Hanifah’s spouse Syed Ahmad enjoys US$20 million (RM60 million) in assets.
Of his brother-in laws, Robert Geneid (Raziah’s spouse) has US$10 million (RM30 million) and Ferdahanum’s man Abdul Aziz Husain has US$20 million (RM60 million).
Taib’s ‘finger’ in 400 companies
Another key player noted in this report is Richard Alexander John Curtis. His net worth is US$20 million (RM60 million).
Curtis, a British lawyer, is a key figure in the Taib family business empire through his role as group managing director of Taib family-controlled CMS and director of financial services provider K&N Kenanga Holdings.
The list of names, however, is not exhaustive.
BMF’s extensive research, however, “is only the tip of the iceberg”.
“The findings exposed that Taib and his family have a stake in over 400 companies around the globe and hold illicit assets worth several billion US dollars.
“The Taib family is one of Southeast Asia’s most notorious kleptocratic clans with business interests in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries.
“[In Sarawak], the Taibs have established monopolies over the granting of timber and plantation concessions, the export of timber to third countries, the maintenance of public roads as well as over the production and sale of cement and a number of other construction materials.”
It is a well-known fact in Sarawak that the Taib family’s flagship company CMS has benefited from un-tendered contracts worth hundreds of millions of US dollars.
“[In Sarawak], the Taib family runs a well-diversified financial empire with interests in Sarawak’s largest timber and logging companies [Ta Ann, Samling, WTK, Sanyan], monopolistic control of log exports [Achi Jaya Transportation], plantations [Sarawak Plantation], construction [CMS, Naim Holdings, Titanium Management], electricity supply [Sarawak Cable, Sarawak Energy], property development [Custodev, Kumpulan Parabena] and state media [Cats FM, New Sarawak Tribune], to name a few,” the report noted.