Global Witness has released footage that exposes the way elites have carved up and sold off the tropical forests of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, then siphoned away millions of dollars through illegal tax dodges. Global Witness filmed the footage in secret when one of its team posed as an investor who wanted to buy up land in Sarawak so he could set up oil palm plantations.
The main targets of the investigation are Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud — who has been Sarawak’s Chief Minister for over 30 years and controls access to forests there — and members of his extended family.
“This film proves for the first time what has long been suspected — that the small elite around Chief Minister Taib are systematically abusing the region’s people and natural resources to line their own pockets,” said Tom Picken, Forest Team Leader at Global Witness, in a press release. “It shows exactly how they do it and it shows the utter contempt they hold for Malaysia’s laws, people and environment.”
In Sarawak, the website FZ.com caught up with the Chief Minister today and reported his response to the claims:
“Ok I saw the so called proof. Could it not be someone who tried to promote themselves to be an agent to get favours from me? It has nothing to do with me. I think it is a bit naughty of them.”
Taib is a master of public relations — as revealed in open letter that The Sarawak Report sent to British reality TV star Ben Fogle after he gushed good publicity about his recent trip to Sarawak. While it is clear that something “naughty” has indeed happened to Sarawak’s forests, Taib seems unconcerned by the latest salvo in an ongoing campaign against him.
Here’s the Global Witness video… The FZ.com interview follows: