Friday, January 14, 2011

Sarawak: Raziah Raids Reserve Forest lands and Taib Profits

Raziah Raids Reserve Forest lands and Taib Profits – Major Exclusive!

Friday, January 14th, 2011 GMT

Bejewelled - Raziah's huge wealth owes to handouts of land titles and contracts from her brother the Chief Minister

We can reveal that Taib’s tycoon sister, Raziah Mahmud, has once again been seizing land from Sarawak’s people. And our investigations have exposed a clumsy cover-up that has lifted the lid on a massive land-grab that implicates the Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud himself.

Raziah’s attempts to conceal her involvement in plans to replace Reserved Forest Lands at Ensengei with yet another vast oil palm plantation have exposed a far wider scandal. We can now show the method by which she and Taib have extracted around a hundred thousand of hectares of state land – an area amounting to roughly half the size of Brunei - over the past decade alone!

Alienation of traditional Native Lands

Ensengei, is one of the few remaining areas of Forest Reserve Land left in lowland Sarawak. The traditional Native Customary Land Rights of the indigenous tribes of the area were recognised by the British in 1947, but in 1984 Taib ruled that it should be acquired by the State as a Forest Reserve. However, in a series of deals between 2005 and 2008 he then handed on roughly twenty thousand hectares of this supposedly protected land to his own sister!

As so often happens in Sarawak, the first the Bidayuh communities of the area knew about these secretive transactions was when a series of logging companies turned up in their foraging areas and fruit tree plantations waiving licences to cut them down. This is the way Taib and BN have chosen to run Sarawak.

Disputed areas

However, thankfully, by 2008 human rights lawyers, like the PKR leader Baru Bian, had developed successful strategies for opposing Taib’s seizures of Native Lands in the courts. His team has launched a number of cases against these companies and also against the Government of Sarawak, who sold the land and issued the licences. Until these matters are resolved the loggers have been ordered to pause their activities in the contested areas.

Raziah’s clumsy cover-up

Hamid Sepawi - Taib's favoured cousin and major shareholder of Usiha Jasamaju

Meanwhile our investigations now demonstrate what few of the local people and their lawyers have been aware of till now, which is that the person behind the actions they are fighting is Taib’s own sister, Raziah Mahmud. Not only has she got close connections with the two largest palm oil companies to be awarded licences to destroy Ensengei, Lambang Sinar Mas and Usaha Jasamaju, but we have also established from the official records that she clearly secured and probably still controls their land titles.

We can confirm that Lambang Sinar Mas is currently owned by the Yu brothers of the construction company Hock Seng Lee Bhd (HSL), well-known business cronies of the Taibs, while Usaha Jasamaju is owned by a number of companies of whom a major shareholder is Hamid Sepawi. Sepawai is the fabulously wealthy cousin of the Chief Minister, who has received numerous lands and favours from the State of Sarawak, to become one of Malaysia’s richest men.

Lambang Sinar Mas, owned by the Yu brothers

Usaha jasamaju, owned largely by Hamid Sepawi

However damming evidence in the Land Registry records reveals that the company which negotiated the issuing of the Ensengei land titles was in fact neither of the above, but Kumpulan Parabena, which is owned and managed by Raziah herself. You can tell this fact because the address and contact details given in the land registry ( as shown above) is the same for both sets of land titles and it is the address for Kumpulan Parabena - 154/56 Jalan Sungai, Padungan, Kuching - and not the companies mentioned (see entry for Kumpulan Parabena in the Register of Companies below).

The address and telephone in the Land Registry matches that of Kumpulan Parabena

Sarawak Report can futher confirm that the two managers named as the contacts in the Land Registry concerning these two sets of transactions with Lambang Sinar Mas and with Usaha Jayamaju (whose concessions are next door to each other) work directly for Raziah Mahmud. Chia Hon Thin and Paul Yu Chee may appear to be representing the two other companies but they give the same Kumpulan Parabena address! Likewise Chia’sgiven telephone number Kuching 082 41 3877 matches Kumpulan Parabena’s number in the telephone directory.

Its all in the yellow pages!

Of even greater worry is that our exclusive research has shown that Chia has used these contact details in numerous other transactions that have been registered in the Land Registry. We will be detailing this further explosive material in later reports, but it means that land titles which have been handed out to dozens of apparently different companies worth hundreds of millions of ringgit were clearly in fact secretly owned and controlled by Raziah Mahmud!

Sarawak Report believes that the extent of these lands could amount to roughly half the size of Brunei, all acquired from the State of Sarawak at nominal prices by the sister of the Chief Minister!

Taib himself has profited!

Even more shocking than this fraud is the fact that we have recently proved that another major shareholder of Kumpulan Parabena is actually Taib Mahmud himself ! We have established that he personally owns shares in Mesti Bersatu, which in turn owns shares in Miri Properties,which in turn holds shares in Kumpulan Parabena! This directly implicates him in the profit that has been made in this fraudulent activity and raises even further questions about why he has chosen to hand out so much land to his own sister.

Raziah's daughter Elia Abas - rather young to be a Director of a major Oil Palm Plantation enterprise! Nevetheless she was one of two Directors of Lambang Sinar Mas when it was handed 16,000 hectares of Forest Reserve Land. Her Dad was the other and her Mum was the Secretary!

The remaining shareholders of Kumpulan Parabena are also members of the Mahmud family and Sarawak Report also intends to detail shortly the enormous number of profitable Sarawak State contracts and indeed Federal projects that have been handed to this company. This means that Taib has also been handing vast amounts of state money directly to a company that he owns himself ! Is this what his Political Secretary Karim Hamza meant when he recently suggested there is nothing wrong with a politician taking advantage of ’business opportunities’ that come their way ?

More proof

This is not the only proof of Raziah’s involvement in the Ensengei Land Titles. We can show that in a further attempt to conceal the details of this shabby land-grab, she carried out the common family practise of obtaining land titles through a little-known company and then quickly selling that company on to a trusted third party for a fat profit. This way she clearly hoped to disguise her original acquisition of the title! ( We have exposed this practise in earlier reports).

A historical research of Malaysia’s official Register of Companies proves that while Lambang Sinar Mas is now listed as belonging to the Yu brothers, at the time the land titles were granted by Taib’s office the company belonged to his sister and her third husband Robert Geneid! The official records (see below) show first that the company, which was incorporated on 25th Dec 2003, was taken over by Razia on 28th Jan 2004, at which time its address moved to to that of Kumpulan Parabena.

The Geneids (Mrs Geneid is Razia Mahmud) took over Lambang Sinar Mas 28.01.04 and located it at Parabena's Offices

A Directors’ Report filed in 2005 also shows clearly that the company was taken over by the Geneids in January 2004, with her husband and young daughter Eliah Abas in the position of Directors, before being later passed on to the Yu brothers in January 2005 (below).

Raziah's husband and daughter were Directors of Lambang Sinar Mas during the key period 28.01.04 - 25.01.05 when the land titles were issued

We can then see from the Land Registry that a raft of Land Titles covering around 16,000 hectares of land were issued to Lambang Sinar Mas on 21st May 2004 for a very reasonable price of RM11.5 million.

Lambang Sinar Mas receives its land titles in Ensengei a few months later in May 2004

At this time, as the copies below prove, the shareholders of Lambang Sinar Mas were Raziah Mahmud, holding 70% of the shares directly and a company called Mahligai Naluri Sdn Bhd, with 28% of the shares. Mahligai Naluri is jointly owned by Raziah and her 3rd husband Robert Geneid, who is also the director of Lambang Sinar Mas!

Lambang Sinar Mas's shareholders at the time the land titles were given were 70% Raziah and 28% a company owned by Raziah and her husband. Mystery surrounds the remaining 2% of the shares and whether these held a controlling vote!

Once Lambang Sinar Mas had acquired the Land Titles we can see that Raziah quickly passed on ownership to the Yu family on 25th January 2005. The rapid sale was clearly designed to disguise the fact that Taib had handed the land to his sister, who has doubtless made a very handsome profit out of the transaction. Between the acquisition and the sale the company issued a financial report showing that the company’s assets as of 31st December 2004 (days before the sale) had gone from zero to RM13.8 million worth of land titles. New Year’s Eve was apparently regarded as a sensible quiet time to register this sudden acquisition of assets from the state!

Moving the ownership in January 2005 meant changing directors!

Even so, despite the sale, Raziah has continued to be the contact registered in the official records of the land registry! This represents a clear signal that despite the public transfer of ownership she has continued to exercise a controlling interest over the concessions and is effectively the real manager of the venture to log the Native Customary Lands of Ensengei.

Decked in jewels - Raziah Mahmud

With these details now made public can Mrs Geneid (Raziah Mahmud’s name through her third marriage) dare to claim that she has not profited from this venture, which represents a clear conflict of interest for her brother the Chief Minister of Sarawak?

Does not the series of attempted cover-ups prove that she knew full well that it was unacceptable for her brother to alienate Native Customary Lands, so that they could then be handed to his sister to cut down and turn into palm plantations – all without a shred of compensation to the poor owners of the land and only a nominal payment to the State of Sarawak?

Is this why Abdul Taib Mahmud has become so widely known as the ‘Thief Minister’ and not the ‘Chief Minister’?

How much has Raziah made?

Parabena's offices at 154/156 Jalan Sungei Padungan have in fact been kept closed for the past half year. The company moved out of these premises at around the time Sarawak Report began mentioning it in its investigations!

According to the Land Registry the state government handed just under 20,000 hectares of Ensengei Forest to the two Kumpulan Parabena companies for the bargain price of RM13 million. Other sales of plantation land would suggest that the true value would have been nearer RM100 million. So it is inconceivable that this secretive series of transactions between Taib and his sister did not make them a very large sum of money at the expense of the State and the traditional native owners of the land.

We request that the Yu brothers and the shareholders of Usaha Jasamaju disclose how much they actually paid for the hand-over of the valuable titles and whether Mrs Geneid does indeed continue to exercise a level of control over their dealings with the Land Registry as indicated by the fact that as late as 2010 Kumpulan Parabena remained the key contact for the concession-holders?

Peter Runin, one of the representatives of the 14 Iban longhouse villages who have taken the State Government and the licence holders to court over the land-grab, says that the people of the area are very angry and will not be bought off by paltry compensation packages. He explained:

“They want to cut down our trees and plant oil palm, but we want to keep our lands”

What seems likely is that Sarawak Report’s latest revelations will add a new dimension to their meeting this weekend to discuss their case against the government and it is likely to strengthen their legal case as well.

A case of fraud?

Ruling on the case in January last year the Judicial Commissioner, Y.A Puan Rhodzariah Bt. Bujang, observed that

”Mr. Baru Bian is right .. Native customary rights land should not be alienated, period”

However, he judged that the natives of Ensengei should only make their case against the State Government and not the title-holders who had received the concessions, UNLESS they could prove fraud. On this he said:

“the claimant of these native customary rights land has a legitimate complaint against the issuer of the land title and should take issue with them; not the title holder unless they can prove fraud as stipulated in section 132(1) of the Land Code”.

Fancy new office location - Raziah now runs her multi-million ringgit Empire of properties and contracts handed to her by the state from her grandiose new offices in Kuching. But all she does is pass on the cheap land titles and state contracts to others for a massive profit!

Given that we have now shown that the title-holder was in fact the sister of the issuer of the land titles and that clearly all parties were well aware of the issues regarding the native land rights, it will be interesting to know whether the courts indeed do in the end decide that a fraud has taken place. If so, this fraud will be a fraud carried out by the Chief Minister of Sarawak against his people with the collusion of his sister and crony companies.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sarawak: Jabu Family Cash In On Native Lands

Jabu Family Cash In On Native Lands

Monday, January 10th, 2011 GMT

This post is also available in: Iban, Malay

Barbara Dubah Jabu, a wealthy match for her new husband with so much land taken from Iban NCR lands and handed to her by the state

News is circulating in the Betong area that Deputy Chief Minster’s family has just cashed in on Native Lands handed to them by the State of Sarawak (thanks to his political ally the Chief Minister, who is also the Planning and Resources Minister and Chairman of the Land Custody and Development Authority).

They are believed to have made a sale to FELCRA for RM 7 million. Not bad for lands that have been extracted from their rightful owners for a pittance!

Sarawak Report wonders if either FELCRA, which as a public federal body should publish all such purchases and deals (especially if the families of government Ministers are profiting from them) or indeed Jabu himself would confirm which of his many land acquisitions have been sold on in this way?

Or perhaps the lawyer handling the deal, Ani Solep, Advocate and Solicitor, would be so good as to make public the details of such a sale of once public lands to a public body?

Over shadowed by the Star Attraction? - Taib brings his own bride now revealed to be named Puan Sri Ragad Waleed Alkurdi

Taib’s chief Iban land-grab crony

It is, of course, well-known that it is not just the Chief Minister and his family who have been grabbing native customary lands for themselves. His Deputy, Jabu, is famous for having hugely profited also from land hand-outs in return for his total political loyalty.

Jabu has acquired enormous tracts of land for himself and his family during his lucrative years as Deputy to Taib Mahmud. Given his modest official salary and poor family background, it is inconceivable that he could have managed to raise the sums needed to buy these areas (now worth many millions of ringgit) if he had paid the market price.

However, as Taib’s political secretary Karim Hamza so recently explained, BN regard it as a perk of political office to take advantage of the “business opportunities” of land that might be offered to you “at a very cheap price”. The rest of the world regards this as corruption.

Enough to cover the wedding!

Jabu’s daughter Barbara, of course, got married this very weekend in great splendour. The Chief Minister and his own surprise new young wife attended the ceremony. Our exclusive photographs show that the bride and groom decked themslves out in full traditional Iban costumes to celebrate their union, but the real Iban population of their home areas and longhouses will be wondering how much of all this lavish entertainment was paid for at their expense?

How much of Jabu’s unexplained wealth has been gained from exploiting their own Iban people by receiving

Top table - nothing but the best for the Jabu wedding

lands taken by the state and then sold to him and his family at a very cheap price?

Herba Aromatics – owned by Jabu children

For example, was the land sold to Felcra for RM7 million the approximately 2,000 hectare plot that was recently handed by Taib to a company called Herba Aromatics? The owners of Herba Aromatics are none other than Gerald Rentap Jabu, the Deputy Chief Minister’s own son and his daughter, the newly wedded Barbara! A close family crony and cousin, Robert Lawson Chuat also enjoys some shares.

This land was ‘purchased’ from the state in 2008 for an agreed price of just over RM 1 million and is located in Lidong Road area, Betong. This is all Native Customary Rights Land belonging to Jabu’s own Iban people and it is of course worth a great deal more than this. In fact the land registry admits that the area is currently used for integrated farming purposes, proving that it belongs to the natives and not to the state – far less to Mr Jabu’s, who has now acquired it for such a low price.

All for the kids? - Jabu's kids are named as the owners, but his influence got them the land! As of this year they still had not paid the State for the acquisition.

How much did the real owners receive?

Crony politics - Jabu has received a wealth of lands from his boss. The lands were taken from the people of Sarawak.

We therefore wish to enquire how much Jabu’s children paid the natives, whose land they alienated? Many natives are angered in Betong that Jabu has acquired large tracts of Iban land in the area by paying the owners a laughable RM500 a door. Less than a month’s wage in Kuching for their entire lifelong inheritance!

Often this RM 500 a door compensation has in fact been paid to Headmen on behalf of members of their longhouses. Often these families did not even know that their land was being traded in this way and did not even receive the money! Such practices are of course illegal and some families are now seeking legal advice to proceed against their exploiters.

Just as outrageously, we can inform you that even the minimal sum which Jabu’s children were supposed to be paying the state for this area of valuable land ( taken from its rightful Iban owners), had yet to be paid earlier this year – a full two years after they had kindly received it from the Chief Minister!

Don't worry Mr Jabu, feel free to pay later. The State of Sarawak would not want you out of pocket before you have sold it on for a massive profit!

Did the Chief Minister perhaps tell Jabu’s children that they didn’t need to find the money to pay the State of Sarawak until after they had sold it on to somebody else at a much higher market price? Would that sale perhaps have been to FELCRA for RM7 million?

Sarawak Report demands that the Land Registry make clear whether Jabu’s children have yet paid all the money owing for this land and if so when?

Easy profits for Government Ministers of Sarawak at the expense of poor native communities

Such a profit would certainly have paid for Barbara’s wedding and set her and her new husband up very nicely for the start of their married life (although it represents but a small fraction of the family fortune). They have done so much better than those rightful owners, who were given RM 500 a door (if they got it), haven’t they?

So, this is progress and development BN-style! It means enormous wealth for Government

Haven't they done well thanks to Daddy Jabu?

Ministers, who are supposed to serve the people, while the poor lose their lands and livelihoods to make them rich.

Of course it is up to the people of Sarawak whether they continue to allow themselves to be robbed in this way or demand their lands back, which is what the opposition parties promise to do!

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