Monday, January 14, 2013

Swiss MPs: Freeze Taib assets from ‘criminal origins’

Swiss MPs: Freeze Taib assets from ‘criminal origins’

FMT Staff | January 15, 2013
Taib Mahmud’s estranged daughter-in-law Shanaz Majid’s sworn testimony is evidence for a ‘criminal complaint’ filed by MPs in the Swiss Parliament.
KUALA LUMPUR:  Twenty-two MPs have tabled a motion in the Swiss Parliament seeking to freeze Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s assets in Switzerland following the shocking disclosure by his estranged daughter-in-law Shanaz Majid in a Malaysian court during her divorce proceedings.
The MPs also asked that these “assets” be held in trust and eventually passed on to the Sarawak people. The motion was filed yesterday.
In the motion, the MPs described Taib as “having abused his public office in a spectacular way” and referred to Shanaz’s sworn testimony
as evidence of how he “illicitly” enriched himself. (Taib’s family assets had been “estimated at 20 billion Swiss franks”.)
Shanaz was once married  to Taib’s eldest son Mahmud Abu Bekir.
In her testimony Shanaz listed out Mahmud’s wealth which included personal accounts in Canada, US, Carribean, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
Shanaz also said Mahmud was worth “in excess of RM1 billion” and held two personal accounts with US$25 million in Edmond de Rothschild in Luxembourg and another US$31 million in the bank’s two other accounts in Switzerland.
She further added that Mahmud had: “Two HSBC accounts in Jersey which have deposits of US$34 million, while an HSBC account in Hong Kong holds deposits of US$9.6 million in Mahmud’s name.  All these accounts have a combined value of US$100 million.”
“He has five bank accounts at the Pictet and Cie bank in Bahamas, the Caribbean, with deposits of US$18 million, and another account at the Safra bank in Bahamas with deposits of US$2 million.
“Eight personal accounts are under my husband’s name at the Safra Bank in Monaco with deposits amounting to US$38.3 million.
“Besides this, he also has seven bank accounts under the Union Bank Switzerland with deposits of US$27 million, and another account under HSBC Bank in Jersey which he may have withdrawn.”
In her testimony, Shanaz had also confirmed that Taib was the richest man in Malaysia and possibly South East Asia.
‘Criminal organisation’
Yesterday’s motion was accompanied by a letter to the Attorney General of the Swiss Confederation Michael Lauber.
In the letter, Geneva MP Carlos Sommaruga described Taib, his family and “entourage” as having formed or being part of a “criminal organisation” as defined by article 260 of the Swiss Penal Code.
He also demanded that the government confisticate all assets “at the power of this criminal organisation”  that had been deposited in Switzerland as defined by article 72 of the Swiss Criminal Code.
Meanwhile, Swiss daily Sonntagszeitung reported that Taib had been the “largest beneficiary” of the oil palm plantations in Sarawak.
“In power since 1981, the granting of logging concessions and the establishment of industrial monopolies have made him the richest man in Malaysia.
“According to the Bruno Manser Fund, the Taib clan has amassed US$20 billion. Part of these funds are likely to be held in Switzerland,” noted the report.
According to Lucerne law professor Monika Roth, who is also BMF’s legal advisor, the disclosures at the divorce proceedings showed an “urgent suspicion that the Taib clan is a criminal organisation.”
Roth said the banks should thus forcibly freeze the assets and accused the banks and authorities of failing to act.
“It is very well-documented that the Taib family assets are at least in part of criminal origin. Despite that, there are no indications that the banks reported suspicions of money-laundering.
“In the Taib case, I think that  neither the concerned banks nor the Financial Markets Regulatory Authority (Finma) are fulfilling their duties and are not implementing the Swiss laws,” Roth reportedly told Swiss daily Tagesanzeiger.
Banks reject allegations
Meanwhile, BMF director Lukas Straumann said he had personally written to the heads of UBS, Pictet and Rothschild and asked them to freeze the Taib accounts.
“The banks can now definitely no longer say they didn’t know (about this),” he added.
Straumann said a letter has also been sent to Deutsche Bank that sustains close business relations with the Taib family and operates a joint venture in Malaysia.
The banks, however, had reportedly rejected the allegations.

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