How Much Did The ‘Sultans’ of Sarawak Receive In The Mulu Land Deal?

Records show that RM130 million has been raised by the controversial company Radiant Lagoon, which was secretly granted 4,500 hectares of forest land in 2008.

The combined US dollar and ringgit loans were registered last December, not long after the transfer of its shares from Governor Taib Mahmud of Sarawak?s son to new owners linked to the massive Double Dynasty logging and plantation business.

Combined loan in dollars and ringgit of c RM130 million raised by Radiant Lagoon

Combined loan in dollars and ringgit of USD18.375m and RM54.6m = RM130 million raised by Radiant Lagoon

Days later bulldozers moved in, taking native customary landowners by surprise as they began razing timber on the concession (despite not having a timber licence say campaigners).

Yet, according to research by opposition parties no sale has yet officially been recorded for the transfer of the concession, which is estimated to be worth over a hundred million ringgit in terms of the value of the timber alone.

This represents just the latest in a series of questionable concessions and transfers of ownership related to this company, which was handed the 4.500 hectares in this sensitive forest area bordering on the Mulu UNESCO World Heritage Site, by Taib a decade ago.

The new owners have suspended their efforts to cash in the timber, pending protests by native people and an international outcry.  However, so far, the federal government has placed no pressure on Sarawak to address the matter or explain what money has gone where?

Call Out The Sultans of Malaysia, but not the ?Sultan? of Sarawak?

By contrast, the Government of Malaysia has quite rightly published details of a manoeuvre to transfer ownership of 4.5 hectares of public land to the Sultan of Johor, after he expressed ?serious concerns? about the proposed RTS rail link that he was due to sign off in 2018.

The venal former Prime Minister Najib appears to have read the Sultan?s objections as being motivated by a lack of financial benefit to the palace, since he promptly supervised the transfer of this strategic plot of land (which just happened to be the arrival point for the proposed rail bridge from Singapore) to the personal ownership of the Sultan.

Najib?s administration then bumped up the price of the rail project by over a billion ringgit (of taxpayers? money) apparently to compensate.  After all, the new arrangement would mean that the RTS project would have to ?buy back? those 4.5 hectares of land from the Sultan, in order to build the railway ? agreed price RM495 million.

The new government is having none of it and has publicised these shenanigans before reclaiming the land, as it should.  Indeed, Johor?s own electorate made its views perfectly clear on May 9th when the majority voted in defiance of that self-same Sultan?s command that they should support Najib and let their ?ruler steer the boat?.

In his defence the Sultan has now agreed to surrender the plot for free, on the apparent basis he was unaware he had received it.

It is now high time to shine a similar light on the acquisition of the ?Sultans of Sarawak?, namely the Taib family, who have acted with a level of impunity that makes the above RTS scandal almost appear trivial by comparison.

New Questions Raised By The Mulu Land Grab

Lack of transparency and oversight in a state government run like a family enterprise by the present governor and former chief minister (cum finance minister/planning and development minister/chairman of the Land Custody & Development Authority) Taib Mahmud, has caused a tangle of disfunctional arrangments that are now unravelling in the spotlight over Mulu.

The two plots in question, which the new owners of the company Radiant Lagoon are trying to log and convert to oil palm, represent just a fraction of a swathe of companies owned by Taib?s son Abu Bekir and held under his enterprise Titanium Management that received massive chunks of land from the state in 2008, under the guise of ?payments in kind?.

In total Sarawak Report has counted some 40,500 hectares released to Abu Bekir in this way, according to details from the secretively held Land Register that were leaked to this site in 2011. A premium was registered for all the plots of mere RM741 per hectare, as opposed to an estimated market value of around RM8,000.

Payment in Kind

40,000 hectares of land as ?Payment in Kind?

There is an apparent history to these grants of territory, linked to a series of highly controversial contracts that Taib offered to his son through his favoured method of so-called ?negotiated tendering? (i.e. no formal tendering process and no transparency) during the period following 2001.

In short, opposition politicians have pointed out that just about every single bridge building contract (99.7% of them) awarded in the state during that period up until 2011 was awarded to Abu Bekir?s company, Titanium Management Sdn Bhd.

Of the two projects that were not granted to TMSD one was a bridge designed to link the Kuching Isthmus to the main town, thereby hugely profiting the land owners on the Isthmus ? who happened to be the Taib family through their company CMS.

Taib has angrily rejected parliamentary requests to provide transparency on the Titanium contracts, however, it has emerged that Abu Bekir made substantial cost over-runs according to the available coverage on the matter.

The DAP?s Rocket news site reported in 2012 that in 2001 Titanium Management (TMSB) was originally contracted to construct 384 bridges at the price of RM551 million. However by the end of 2006, TMSB had constructed only 322 bridges but billed the state government RM947 million ? i.e. it had produced 62 bridges less but at a cost of RM396 million more.

How Taib?s administration apparently resolved this matter with his son was to pay TMSB RM700 million in cash and then alienate 2 parcels of state lands to TMSB?s nominated companies in compensation for the remaining RM247 million.  According to The Rocket:

?The 1st land parcel was valued at RM 80 million (current market value ? RM 400 million).
The 2nd alienation involved more than 100,000 acres of plantation land valued at RM 300/acre, (market value ? RM 3,500-4,000/acre)
In total the state government lost around RM 1 billion in foregone revenue due to the payment in kind?

It would appear the second alienation of 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares) worth over RM900 million back in 2012 refers to those ten plantation concessions (above) registered by the Land & Survey Department as having been given as ?Payment in Kind? to Abu Bekir.

Even if the state were to have accepted it owed Abu Bekir the RM247 million he claimed, the substitution of one billion ringgit worth of land seems a mighty disadvantageous deal for the taxpayers of Sarawak.

Hiding a Purchase?

Which brings us to the circumstances of the recent transfer of share ownership by Abu Bekir of Radiant Lagoon to the Double Dynasty tycoon, a known close supporter of the Taibs.

Sarawak Report has already noted that land records show how Abu Bekir removed himself as the public director and shareholder of Radiant Lagoon during the period of around 18 months in which the disputed plots 2 & 3 in the Tutoh area were alienated to the company by the Land & Survey Dept. His place was taken by his business partner and fellow director of Titanium Management, Chris Chung, who negotiated for the terms of the gratis concession to be further enhanced to allow a 15 year period during which he could hang on to the site before developing it? or offering it on for sale.

Abu Bekir then re-emerged as the Director and 99% shareholder in mid-2010.

The transfer of the company in February last year to the Double Dynasty owned Onlyee Plantations Sdn Bhd appears to have been achieved in exactly the same way, in that it was not registered as a sale, according to opposition critics, but merely as a transfer of shares and directorships.

However, on this occasion the shifting of control was not between two business partners working under the same roof at Titanium Management. Titanium Management has now clearly surrendered control of the concession to a major industry player, who has moved swiftly to start chopping down the trees and convert the land.

This raises the question as to whether a sale has actually taken place and if so, how much did Abu Bekir receive for his 99% share of the concession on these 4,500 hectares?

Possibly indicatively, the Land & Survey Department registered the two very large encumbrances on the company raised some months after the change of directorship and shareholdings, namely those two charges of US$18.375 million and RM54.6 million (RM130 million in total).

Were these raised by the new shareholders to pay for the purchase, because the forms state there was no payment to the government?  If so, the sum works out at c RM28,000 per hectare, which represents a considerable potential profit over the original RM741 allegedly paid as an original premium ? a total profit of c RM120 million.

Were the loans taken out on Radiant Lagoon related to a payment to its previous owners for the purchase?

Were the loans taken out on Radiant Lagoon related to a payment to its previous owners for the purchase?

If there has indeed been a sale, then Abu Bekir ought to have registered it as such and paid a considerable sum in stamp duty to the State of Sarawak plus declared the matter in his income tax returns. Critics claim he has not.

Sarawak Report has placed a number of questions relating to these issues and claims to Abu Bekir Taib, via his other family run company CMSB and we will update on any answers we may receive as to whether a sale took place, how much was transacted and if such a sale has yet been registered.

Whatever the response, it is time the Malaysian anti-corruption authorities also investigated these protracted dealings to determine the exact amount of money that the Taibs have deprived the State of Sarawak of over this extended saga of land and bridges and also what breaches of the duties of public office may have taken place in the process.

Then the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) can start to look at all the other billions of ringgit worth of loot that the family has blatantly purloined from a once wealthy state that has over 40 years been denuded and destroyed, with only their own lavish living to account for all the missing money.

Another set of Taib trophy wife's jewellery haul on show on instagram

Another set of Taib trophy wife?s jewellery haul on show again on Instagram

Source: Sarawak Report

*For the complete list of 73 bridge contracts that Taib was criticised for handing to his son without tender please refer to Sarawak Report.

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