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Swiss NGO warns Taib’s London lawyers

KUCHING: An international NGO has challenged Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s British lawyers to explain their statement that the Sarawak government “issues licenses for land under very controlled circumstances”.

The London-based lawyers had, in response to an article published earlier this week in British daily The Independent, linking Taib to the massive deforestation in Sarawak, said: “The government of Sarawak issues licences for land in very controlled circumstances… This is an administrative exercise, not political patronage.

“Our client never demands or accepts bribes for the grant of licences and leases.”

Mishcon de Reya represents Taib, his Canadian son-in-law Sean Murray and their extensive global businesses network.

But Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), which is in the forefront of the ‘Freeze Taib’s assets’ and ‘Stop Timber Corruption’ campaigns, today challenged Mishcon deReya to clarify what it meant by “government of Sarawak issues licences for land in very controlled circumstances…”

BMF research had shown that Taib and his family members are reportedly sitting on 31 companies in Sarawak and have been allotted 200,000 hectares of land – equivalent to the size of Singapore.

“(We) challenge Mishcon de Reya to explain why, in these “very controlled circumstances”, close to 200,000 hectares of Sarawak state land ended up in the hands of oil palm plantation companies in which Taib family members have a known business interests.”

BMF noted that in the wake of Global Witness ‘sting’ video release exposing the level of corruption linked to Taib, Mishcon de Reya “is coming into the spotlight over their dodgy role”.

“The Bruno Manser Fund calls on Mishcon de Reya to drop the Sarawak Chief Minister and his family members as their customers,” it said in a statement.

Deregister companies

Earlier this week BMF had also urged the Companies Commission of Malaysia to deregister two Sarawak companies for their alleged involvement in criminal activities.

The two companies – Billion Venture Sdn Bhd and Ample Agro Sdn Bhd – were exposed last week by Global Witness in a secretly recorded video.

In the film, Taib’s cousins – Fatimah and Norlia Rahman Yakub who owned Ample Agro – and two Sarawak lawyers “blatantly admitted that the two companies are being used to illegally” enrich the family and a Taib crony by selling off state-owned land to foreign investors.

Billion Venture which was issued a provisional lease is currently being sued by natives who are claiming that the land is their native customary right.

“Billion Venture is a defendant in Sarawak’s biggest land rights litigation which was jointly filed by Kelabit, Penan and Lun Bawang plaintiffs in March 2011.

“The natives’ land claim has been struck out by the High Court of Sarawak on formal grounds but is currently on appeal.”

In view of this, BMF said the “companies should be deregistered immediately to prevent their assets from being sold off to third parties by illegal means.”

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