Hornbill Unleashed

January 19, 2013

Liberia accuses Taib-linked firm of ‘massive fraud’

FMT Staff

Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud-linked Samling bankrolled the entire operations of Atlantic Resources in Liberia for rights to log.

Liberia has shamed and expelled from the country a Malaysia-financed timber company for “massive fraud, misrepresentations, abuses and violations” of its forest reform laws.

The majority shareholder of the company, Atlantic Resources Ltd, is Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s brother Hamid Sepawi through his company Perkapalan Damai Timar (PDT).

Bankrolling the business in Liberia was another Taib-linked company Samling. Hamid is also a key shareholder in Samling through PDT.

Atlantic Resources’ operations in Liberia were allegedly financed by a US$60 million investment by Samling.

Global Witness, an environmental NGO, said Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also announced that “logs cut under private use permits [PUPs] may be confiscated and sold, with proceeds used to cover taxes owed by logging companies and to compensate affected communities”.

The NGO also said that the presidential order issued on Jan 4 also established that those found to be responsible for the widespread illegality and abuses associated with these permits will be subjected to criminal prosecution.

The order called for an immediate moratorium on several errant “companies, individuals, communities, groups, and associations” including Atlantic Resources.

The order was based on investigations that revealed “massive fraud, misrepresentations, abuses and violations” of Liberia’s National Forestry Reform Law and in the issuance of its PUPs, which Atlantic Resources had received.

“…because the mismanagement of the PUPs poses a threat to the efficient, effective, and sustainable management of our forests, it is imperative to impose a moratorium to protect the national interest,” said the order.

In an official statement accompanying the executive order, Sirleaf announced that “any costs of the moratorium could be compensated for by collecting taxes owed by logging companies, confiscating and auctioning illegally harvested timber, and seeking compensation for timber illegally exported by Atlantic Resources in 2012 in contravention of an earlier moratorium”.

Not a sustainable investment

The probe by the Liberian government-appointed special independent investigating body revealed that Atlantic Resources was the largest “executor” of the PUPs covering a total of 835,040 hectares.

This was in addition to another 130,00 hectares of forest land it held under the forest management contracts.

Global Witness said Atlantic Resources “now controlled eight percent of Liberia’s land through PUPs and owed the Liberian government millions in back taxes”.

“Giving your forests to companies like that is not a sustainable investment,” said Global Witness.

The expulsion has heightened focus on Taib’s crony timber companies which have gained immensely from timber deals in Sarawak and abroad.

Sarawak Report noted that environmental NGOs worldwide have accused Samling, Ta Ann Holdings, Rimbunan Hijau and WTK of corrupt practices and disregarding local communities and environment. All these companies are linked to Taib.

“The new evidence about Taib’s family reach into corrupted logging in Africa is likely to further strengthen the determination of protesters in Tasmania, who face court appearances this Friday, over a non-violent protest at an Ta Ann mill, ” it said in its posting today.

Ta Ann Tasmania, which is also owed by Hamid, has been controversially extracting wood from wild forest areas that had originally been set aside for protected forest.

The latest development follows a Jan 14 motion in the Swiss Parliament to freeze Taib’s assets in Swizz banks.

In the motion, Taib was described as “having abused his public office in a spectacular way”. Taib has been in power since 1981 and recent disclosures have shown him to be worth billions of ringgit in assets and investments locally and abroad.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Hornbill Unleashed: Liberia accuses Taib-linked firm of ‘massive fraud’ https://hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/40240/#more-40240 (19 Jan […]

    Pingback by An Exile’s Farewell and Perspective on Postmodern Malaysia by Dr. Omar | zaidpub — November 15, 2016 @ 8:04 PM | Reply

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