It must have seemed a good idea at the time for young Abu Bekir to have married a lady with an MBA in Finance. They even placed her on the Board of the family firm CMS. However, it means Datin Sri Shahnaz Majid, who is now suing him for divorce, is particularly qualified to give an estimate of the worth of Taib’s son – and she is after him for RM400 million!
According to expert divorce lawyers consulted by Sarawak Report, a wife in her position would be entitled to aim for 30% of a couple’s wealth, which makes Abu Bekir, aged 48, a comfortable billionaire. According to Kuching lawyer Desmond Kho:
“The RM400 million claim is by far the highest ever recorded and claimed by a Sarawakian. This should make Bekir one of the richest men in Malaysia. I’m sure the wife’s lawyer must have assessed Bekir’s wealth to come up with the quotation”.
The revelation could not have come at a more awkward time for the Mahmud family, just the day after Taib had parachuted him in to contest BN’s supposedly safe seat of Sadong Jaya. Over the coming days before the actual election, the constituents were supposed to be treated to a staged introduction to their new candidate, who would doubtless have become Taib’s planned successor. Even the Prime Minister Najib Razak was to visit the area on his behalf this March 19th. However, now these voters will have rather more information than anticipated upon which to judge their new candidate!
Shanaz, who is the sister of the well-known jazz singer Sheila Majid and seems widely liked, says that Abu Bekir subjected her to ‘physical and mental torture’. According to reports she has accused her husband of punching her head, face and eyes; kicking her in the ribs; and throttling her. She also claims he verbally abused her with foul words. The accusations are uncannily similar to the reports against Abu Bekir’s brother Sulaiman, who publicly attacked a girlfriend in a bar in KL.
The couple, who married in 1992 and have a 17-year-old son, have not been intimate since 2001. Shanaz claims that since 1999, her husband rarely came home and could not be advised, was difficult to contact and was very sociable with other women. After he married a second wife, a young, blond Russian woman he ceased to treat her fairly.
However, it is Abu Bekir’s assets and the small matter of how he came to acquire them that will be of equal interest to Sarawakians contemplating the suitability of this candidate for office. Shahnaz refers to several homes and claims Bekir owns thousands of hectares in Sarawak, which will come as little surprise to readers of Sarawak Report. She also reveals that he owns seven luxury cars that include Lamborghini, Ferrari, Bentley and Maserati. According to Abu Bekir’s first wife, their joint assets include shares in 15 different companies including Cahaya Mata Sarawak and Sarawak Cable Bhd as well as savings in Employees Provident Fund and Amanah Saham Bumiputera units.
Sarawak Report has examined just some of the assets his wife refers to.
It is a well-known fact that Abu Bekir is a key Director and the largest shareholder in CMS along with his brother Sulaiman. CMS is a supposedly public company made up of assets taken from the State of Sarawak through the decisions of the Chief Minister. However a huge chunk of the shares are owned by members of Taib’s family.
The latest available Annual Report is for 2009 and it still registers the Chief Minister’s own late wife Laila as the biggest individual shareholder (although it is believed her two sons have now inherited the shares between them). How Mrs Taib, who never appeared to be engaged in business and who did not bring any money to the marriage, managed to accumulate such a vast shareholding has never been explained to the public or to the ordinary shareholders of CMS!
Abu Bekir and his brother Sulaiman are the next biggest shareholders and all four children of Taib control Majaharta, which is listed as the largest shareholder! Each share is currently worth comfortably over 3 ringgit, which a lady with an MBA in finance can easily tot up to a rough calculation of RM150 million.
The Chief Minister channels numerous public contracts through CMS, thus ensuring that those shares remain a healthy price. Just one of the lucrative and high-profile contracts the Chief Minister has awarded his family in this way was the recently completed Borneo Convention Centre, at which BN held its political rally last weekend. Taib’s policies of ‘Progress and Development’ directly benefit CMS in this way. The more mega-projects he commissions the better his family does, with SCORE being the latest cash cow development programme!
As the Malaysian Stock Exchange, Bursa Malaysia’s, news excitedly put it last month:
“Stoked by news flow on potential project flows in SCORE and the award of a road project, CMS’s share price surged 80% last year, outperforming the construction stocks under our coverage which rose 36% on average. This year marks the implementation of Phase 2 of SCORE. Various road and infrastructure projects under the 10MP and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) have yet to be implemented. Execution will be a key theme for this year, backed by the 10MP’s RM4.6 billion budget for Sarawak”. Feb 16th 2011
The Taibs could never be accused of putting all their eggs in one basket! Abu Bekir’s company Titanium Management has been awarded enormous tracts of land by the State of Sarawak in recent years, all for a mysterious ‘Payment in Kind’! A host of subsidiary companies, also controlled out of the offices of Titanium, have also been awarded vast areas as well, for no discernable payment.
Sarawak Report has calculated that over 70,000 hectares, an area greater than the size of Singapore, has been handed to Abut Bekir thanks to decisions by his father as the Minister in charge of resources.
As a spate of angry law suits has made plain, many of these territories actually belonged to other people! The Chief Minister has attempted to over-ride Native Customary Land Rights in recent amendments to the legislation, however these amendments are being over-ruled in the courts. Just last week Abu Bekir’s company Polar Horizon, which had served eviction notices on several Iban native customary landowners, was forced into retreat after PKR’s See Chee How took them to court and the case was publicised on Radio Free Sarawak and elsewhere. Abu Bekir’s henchmen have verbally assured the villagers that the eviction attempt will no longer go ahead, although nothing yet has been received in writing.
Indeed, given the growing number of setbacks regarding these land disputes, perhaps Datin Shanaz will have to consider revising down some of her calculations on the worth of the land titles which she has demanded that her husband present in court!
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Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib was also of course one of the original Directors and a founder of Sakto Corporation, which now owns millions of US dollars worth of property in Canada.
He managed to set up the company with his sister Jamilah and Uncle Onn Mahmud, when he was just a college student aged 20! In its first year, the company invested $7 million in purchasing 400 residential units in Ottawa. The company now owns hundreds of millions of dollars worth of office and retail space, as well as some swish residential blocks. Later, he was one of the founding Directors and Shareholders of the sister company Sakti International set up in the US in 1987. Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib acted as the President of the company until it was later handed over to his younger brother Sulaiman Taib, who was studying at university in San Francisco. The property in Sakti and its related companies are worth in the region of a million dollars as well.
As Sarawak Report has been able to reveal, a secret share deal means that half the shares Abu Bekir owns in Sakti are actually held in trust for his father Abdul Taib Mahmud! Abu Bekir has been laughably presented as a major businessman and maker of money since the tender age of 20, on the basis that his father could never have legitimately have earned such wealth to have given to him. However, Taib has never offered an explanation as to why these shares were held in trust for him by his children and brothers, giving him an over all 50% interest in the company!
This company, which was incorporated in the 1990s, lay dormant until 2008 when it suddenly sprang into life with the acquisition of Universal Cable (Sarawak) Sdn Bhd, which manufactures cables. Abu Bekir Taib is the Chairman and owns 36% of the shares, while his Dad’s cousin, Hamid Sepawi, owns 20%. The latest share price, from when these shares were last traded in November, shows them valued at RM1.29. We therefore calculate that Abu Bekir’s 43 million or so shares are worth around RM55 million.
Things should continue to go well for the company as the state has just invested heavily in a project with them! In November 2010 they were awarded a transmission line job worth RM98.68 million by Sarawak Energy Bhd as part of a joint venture with Sinohydro!
Abu Bekir will at least have no trouble convincing his voters that he is rich and powerful, which is the normal approach of BN politicians wishing to secure support. He may even follow in his father’s footsteps by offering to pay constituents a few hundred ringgit each for their votes. But those voters should think hard about where Abu Bekir got his money and whether it was from land and state properties that rightfully belonged to them in the first place. If so, they should consider whether they should actually be voting to get those assets back to the people where they belong!