Southeast Asia’s tallest flagpole is at half-mast and two days of mourning have been announced, as Malaysia’s top brass gather in a final admission that far from being “well and in good stead” the former strongman of Sarawak has long been too frail for office and is now deceased.

Beset by yet further government imposed ‘conduct codes’ and restrictions on reporting, Malaysia’s media has likewise been churning out obituaries focused on the all encompassing power and longevity of ex-Chief Minister then Governor, Abdul Taib Mahmud, without touching on how he achieved such an unfettered autocratic status in an alleged democracy.

There has been much talk of his ‘modernising’ role in converting the world’s oldest and most biodiverse tropical rainforest into a palm oil plantation, but little reflection on how and why he did so and who has benefitted.

Away from the formalities and the subdued streets of Kuching, on the other hand, social media has throbbed  with talk of a different kind of legacy, namely the Taib family’s enormous inheritance of unexplained wealth that is now the subject of ugly rancour and court battles between his offspring and their younger stepmother, Ragad.

Ragad’s own family (who are Syrian) are now jointly managing considerable assets, acquired through her brokered marriage with the failing former potentate, from their base in Turkey.

These include properties and shares apparently signed over to her during Taib’s last weeks of life from the bequests made in his first wife’s will to the couple’s children – assets which are themselves unexplained. That matter is now before the courts which this week agreed to freeze RM50 million worth of CMSB shares pending judgement.

Netizens are meanwhile sharing data (much of it originally exposed by this website) totting up the extraordinary portfolio of properties, concessions, state enriched companies and foreign assets belonging to the Taib family, many of whose members have been arriving over the past hours in Kuching to be seen by the coffin of the man Ragad allegedly kept most of them away from during his fading years.

Secret Mansion Is The Second Most Expensive In KL

Sarawak Report can exclusively add to that list a till now unreported, valuable gem belonging to Taib himself.  A vast mansion in KL, believed to be the second most expensive in the capital, has quite recently been bought in his name and developed to the tune of tens of millions of ringgit.

Multiple sources have identified Taib as the named proprietor of 5 Jalan Tunku Putra, Taman Duta, a luxurious property that is not far from his existing official residence, Rahmat Jelita, and the equally imposing house belonging to his sister Raziah a few doors up the road.

He purchased the 15,016 square foot property in October 2017 for an eye-watering RM 11,500,000, according to insiders, who say it has been treated as the project and possession of his younger wife.

Upon purchase, the original house was initially demolished and re-built, following which Ragad hired the fashionable interior designer Megat Sheriff to complete the project. He is currently putting the finishing touches and, according to those who have viewed the property, “the style is opulent and luxurious” with lots of coloured marble and granite pillars.

It is a plainly extremely valuable asset that adds to a billionaire’s trove of unexplained wealth in the possession of a man who spent his entire working career as a handsomely salaried but by no means legitimately wealthy public servant.

Even the multiple portfolio of offices Taib appointed himself to concurrently during his decades long career could not account for such an accumulation of wealth, and naturally none of those positions permitted him to conduct private business at the same time.

Today, the Bruno Manser Fund (set up in memory of the murdered Swiss eco-campaigner who challenged Taib’s land grabs) issued its own statement making that same point:

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).

Despite this obvious concern and the plain rules of office, close political cronies such as Karim Hamza, have notoriously advocated in Taib’s defence that Sarawak politicians ‘deserve’ to be able to conduct businesses and be wealthy at the same time as making the decisions affecting those very enterprises as a ‘reward for their public service’!

So little mystery as to how Taib’s wife, siblings, cousins and, from a very young age, all his children came by astonishingly large holdings of shares and concessions in Sarawak, many of which are being listed in the papers once again with the news of his departure or shared on social media:

These aside from Taib’s fleets of Rolls Royces; the flaunting of gems and valuables; his grand Kuching Residence with rolling acres and the mysterious cash that flowed into the network of companies controlled by his family members in North America and the UK.

Following Sarawak Report and BMF’s extensive reporting on Taib’s wealth and his style of governance (better summed up as a Godfather rather than Father of Modern Sarawak)  investigations were opened both in Malaysia and in certain foreign jurisdictions a decade ago, ironically initiated by the government of Najib Razak.

Yet a convenient rule instated by Najib’s own corrupted government, sought to exonerate senior decision makers from self-dealing over secretive contracts and concessions, as long as it could be shown that the beneficiary was out of the room at the time underlings signed off on the plunderous arrangements.

This was used by MACC officials as an excuse to suggest they could not therefore proceed against high level corruption conducted from behind closed doors.

Instead, Najib leveraged the over-mighty Taib from his political positions and pushed him upstairs to the Governorship on the agreed (but by no means constitutional) grounds that as head of state he was accorded immunity …. and the investigations closed.

Following the removal of Najib in 2018 law officers again addressed the matter of the notorious billionaire Governor of Sarawak. However, again also, the elderly power monger’s longstanding network of cronies and collaborators worked to close investigations down.

Taib sank into his final years and a second term as Governor, increasingly inactive in his role and separated from family members, some of whom appeared to be cashing and moving out as much as possible from their Sarawak holdings.

Foreign investigators who came over to KL to seek assistance over money laundering enquiries related to the Taib family empire were turned away, according to informants familiar with those proceedings.

Re-open the Unexplained Wealth Enquiry Into Taib Family

Now that Taib is gone; the electorate has voted for a ‘anti-corruption and reforming government’ and the Taib family are quarrelling over what remains, is this not at last the proper time to open up enquiries once and for all into the gross corruption and kleptocracy that has afflicted Sarawak for the past decades with a view to restitution to the impoverished peoples of this wealthy state?

The secrecy hanging over what ought to be a matter of public record – the disposal of concessions and awarding of contracts – should end. How Taib distributed his largesse and for whose benefit should be subjected to proper scrutiny, along with royalties paid, taxes owed and the backhanders as well.

Just today a senior state minister from the hey day of Taib Mahmud offered what he clearly felt to be a tribute to his style of government, yet in the process revealed just how the Godfather of Sarawak distributed public wealth to cronies and allies as if he owned it personally:

“Personally, I was touched by his concern when, during his final year as Sarawak chief minister, he asked me if there was anything he could do to help my constituency in Kapit, without me asking first.
“And when I applied for a piece of land to be developed, he just approved it. That’s what I mean about his true nature. He was a generous man and he did not forget those who were with him,” Alexander Lingi Nanta said when interviewed on Bernama Radio today.

Such was Taib’s legacy of autocratic leadership where due process, native land rights and lawful procedures could be swept aside by a personal decision of one man to be “generous” with public wealth that he was elected to administer but did not own.

Too often, as everyone in Sarawak knows full well, Taib took advantage of his power and mastery to be most generous of all towards himself.  Much of that loot is now purloined by others – family or those who took advantage of his later years.

Malaysia’s forces of law and order must now re-open the files and launch a proper investigation into that rotten legacy so as to return Sarawak’s stolen wealth and repair its institutions so that its future governance can put the people first.

Source : Sarawak Report

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