Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Germany urged to freeze Taib’s assets

Corrupt Barisan Nasional - KUALA LUMPUR: Germany, which has been in the forefront on calls for the “effective combating of corruption”, has been urged to “freeze all the assets of kleptocrat” Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud.
The call for Chancellor Angella Merkel to “clarify business ties” that leading German financial institute, Deutsche Bank, has with Taib comes just over month after Switzerland said it would investigate the matter.
Three Swiss and German NGOs wrote to Merkel informing her of Duetsche Bank’s lucrative involvement with Taib.

The NGOs are Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), a German rainforest advocacy group Rettet den Regenwald and the Society for Threatened People.
In a joint statement today, they said: “We are seriously concerned that, as a leading German financial institute, Deutsche Bank is closely cooperating with the highly corrupt and internationally discredited Taib regime.
“We feel that this cooperation cannot be in the interest of the German government, which is globally promoting the effective combating of corruption.
“We are asking the German government to clarify Deutsche Bank’s business ties with Taib and to freeze all his German assets.”
Describing Taib as “one of Southeast Asia’s leading kleptocrats”, they alleged that Deutsche Bank has conducted several important business transactions for the Sarawak government.
In 2005, Deutsche Bank was the sole bookrunner for the US$600 million listing of Sarawak International Incorporated in Labuan.
Before December 2004, Deutsche Bank arranged a US$135 million loan for the Sarawak Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), a state body controlled by Taib.
49-Taib linked companies
Deutsche Bank International’s Jersey and Cayman branches are administering the Jersey-based Sogo Holdings Ltd, through which several of Taib’s family’s assets in the US are held.
In Malaysia, Deutsche Bank is running joint ventures with Cahya Mata Sarawak (CMS), the Taib family’s business flagship, under the names of K & N Kenanga Holdings and Kenanga Deutsche Futures.
Deutsche Bank is Germany’s largest bank and one of the world’s leading financial institutions.
Earlier this month, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed it was investigating Taib for corruption.
However, this has been widely said to be merely a symbolic gesture following Switzerland’s Financial Markets Supervisory Authority’s announcement that it will probe Taib’s assets in Swiss banks.
Taib, who has been in office since 1981, is also Sarawak’s Finance and Planning and Resources Minister.
He and his family are believed to have set up a global business empire across eight countries and are allegedly worth several billions of ringgit.
In February this year, BMF revealed that there were 49 Taib-connected companies worldwide, including several in Australia, Canada and the United States.
The group blamed Taib for the widespread deforestation of Sarawak, alleging that he had gained immensely from logging concessions.
Slow process
Forty years into his iron-clad rule, some 70% of the state’s rainforest has allegedly been stripped.
In February, BMF launched a series of global anti-Taib protests and urged the governments of the eight countries where Taib’s business are based to freeze his accounts.
Last month, Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey responded to BMF, saying her government viewed the embezzlement of funds into Switzerland with “great interest”.
“Switzerland has, during the last 15 years, restituted about 1.7 billion Swiss Francs, more than any other financial centre of comparable size,” she said.
Calmy-Rey’s government has frozen assets connected to troubled countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.
However, she added that withdrawing frozen assets back to the countries in question would be slow and difficult, especially if the “persons concerned” were still in power.

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