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Friday, March 31, 2017

Report details Taib family's Canadian real estate empire



A report by the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) has detailed the real estate business empire of Sarawak governor Abdul Taib Mahmud's family in Canada, worth around CA$200 million (RM664 million).
The 86-page report, titled "Safe Haven Canada" was presented at the Canadian Parliament yesterday.
The report claimed the Taib family channelled at least CA$69.8 million (RM232 million) to the Sakto group of companies, the family's vehicle for their real estate investments.
"Safe Haven Canada shows how the Taibs developed a business model which allowed their Ottawa real estate group Sakto to prosper despite continuous losses.
"The secret behind this apparent economic miracle was a steady influx of money from its Malaysian owners," Switzerland-based BMF said in a statement yesterday.
Sakto was founded by Taib's brother Onn Mahmud and children Jamilah Taib Murray and Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib in 1983.
The report noted that Taib, who was also former Sarawak Chief Minister, had in an interview said he provided his daughter Jamilah an undisclosed amount of money to start her business in Ottawa.
He had claimed the money was from a gratuity he had received when he resigned from the federal government in 1981.
The report also cited a 2014 letter by Jamilah's husband and Sakto president Sean Murray to the Toronto Star, who revealed the company's shareholders were Jamilah and three other family members, including Onn.
Murray also denied that Taib was involved in the company.
Loan from the Taibs
Detailing Sakto's finances, the report found that the company, by 1993, had received CA$29.8 million in loan and capital from the company's shareholders, comprising the Taib family.
"The source of these funds remain unknown," it said.
In 1996, two more loans of CA$20 million each were obtained on Sakto's properties, one registered in Jamilah's name and another to Jamilah "in trust".
On top of the same three shareholders from previous loan, the lenders this time included Laila Taib Chalecki (Taib's wife) and two other offshore companies, one controlled by Onn and another that collected payments from companies importing tropical wood from Sarawak to Japan.
The report said the Taib family likely contributed more money to the company after 1996 but there was no information available from public records.
The report also detailed Sakto's and the Taib's family's various property transactions.
They included a CA$945,000 purchase of a property along Buena Vista Road in Ottawa by Laila in 1989, which was subsequently transferred to Jamilah in 2007.
"It remains unclear how Laila Taib, the wife of a public official without independent means, had acquired the funds to purchase a house of such value," it said.
It also highlighted Onn and Jamilah's purchase of multiple properties in Beaverbrook, Ottawa for CA$4.65 million in 1983 which was subsequently transferred to Sakto at one Canadian dollar.
The same year, Onn also purchase multiple rental properties on Walkley Road, Otawa for CA$2.75 million and transferred to Sakto the following year at CA$1.
"Today, the group’s property holdings exceed CAD 200 million, not counting the group’s subsidiaries in the US, Britain and Australia," it said.
The report noted that despite Taib's history in Malaysia, no efforts were made by Canadian authorities to scrutinise their business interests in Canada.
"One important element assisting the Taib family in shielding their Canadian assets from public scrutiny for over 30 years is that, according to Canadian legislation, the shareholders and beneficial owners of private corporations are protected by privacy laws," it said.
It said that despite legal safeguards, Canada is still being used as a safe haven for laundered funds.
The BMF urged Canadian authorities to use all available legal and political means to resolve the matter.
Read the full report on BMF's website.- Mkini

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