By FMT staff
KUCHING: The United Kingdom, it appears, is becoming less indulgent of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and his “laundering” of timber proceeds.
The latest indication was during the debate in the House of Lords last Tuesday.
Famed rainforest campaigner Lord St John (of Blesto) drew the House’s attention to Switzerland and Germany’s probe on Taib’s assets allegedly derived from logging Sarawak’s vast rainforest.
The Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), which has been at the forefront of the global “Anti-Taib” campaign, has blamed Taib for the extensive deforestation in Sarawak which has left thousands of indigenous native communities displaced.
BNF along with other environmental groups claim that some 70% of Sarawak rainforest has been logged by Taib and his cronies.
BMF, which is a Swiss-based NGO, has identified and blacklisted 49 companies in eight countries which are linked to Taib and his family.
The NGO and several others are behind the move to get the global governments to freeze Taib’s assets and investigate his businessness abroad.
Thus far they have managed to get the German and Swiss authorities to probe Taib’s alleged money- laundering chain.
But raising the issue in the House of Lords was a victory of sorts for BMF.
Last Tuesday, Lord St John asked the British government if it was planning to follow in the steps of the Swiss and German governments and launch an investigation of the “money-laundering (activities) – the proceeds of timber corruption by the Chief Minister of Sarawak in Malaysia”.
He also asked what other measures were being taken “to identify and sanction those large international logging companies which do not ensure best practice in sustainable logging?”
In response, a minister from Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID), said:
“We are ensuring that we respond proactively to the difficulties we are all facing with this issue.
“The multinational companies that deal in illegal logging will find that the penalties for this will be severe.”
Taib has extensive business interests in Britain.
The Sarawak Report webportal said BMF had “indicated that they will shortly be approaching the UK authorities to urge an investigation into (Taib’s) Ridgeford Properties in London”.
“(Ridgeford Properties) has also handled hundreds of millions of pounds worth of assets, including a large period building adjacent to the Bank of England.”
Last week it was reported that the Canadian government was also keeping an eye on the situation.
The government had acknowledged that it was aware of the fact that the Taib family have hundreds of millions of dollars of property assets in North America.
But it refused to confirm or deny any investigation at this stage.