Taib Mahmud’s last stand? June 1, 2007Posted by elizabethwong in Democracy, Human Rights, Malaysia, Politics.
On Thursday, See Chee How and Wan Zainal Abidin received their writ of summons for defamation from Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak.
Both See (KeADILan Division chief of Stampin, Sarawak) and Wan Zainal (Sarawak KeADILan chief) were said to have defamed Taib when they distributed leaflets alleging kickbacks from Japanese shipping companies to a Hong Kong agent linked to the Chief Minister and his family (see end of post).
Ironically, some of us had dinner with See, an old NGO colleague (now lawyer specialising in environment and indigenous land rights) just a few nights ago, discussing about this case alongside other current affairs issues.
No doubt a defamation suit coming from an extremely wealthy and powerful politician is daunting.
I asked See, a quiet soft-spoken man, whether he was alright (meaning – how much sleep is he losing over this); to which he replied, “We now have the opportunity to bring up all that’s been buried by Taib.”
Malaysiakini.com and its editor-in-chief, Steven Gan received theirs on the same day too. The online paper still maintains its serialised section on this scandal, titled, “Tip of the iceberg” which undoubtedly irked the 71-year old Chief Minister even more.
It is not known whether Utusan Malaysia and its group editor-in-chief Mohd Khalid Mohd was served today.
There are however signs that Taib isn’t handling this all that well. During the first session of the Sarawak state assembly, he defended himself and issued a 10-page denial during the sitting.
Then the speaker disallowed questions on the matter and said the next day that any comment or discussion in the assembly would be deemed sub judice.
The originating article came from Kyodo News, dated 29 March 2007. It is not known whethere Kyodo will be sued in the future too.
So here it is again ….Play it again, Sam!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Nine Japanese shipping companies that transport lumber from Sarawak, Malaysia, allegedly failed to report some 1.1 billion yen of income in total during a period of up to seven years through last March, sources said Wednesday, alleging the money constituted kickbacks to Sarawak officials via a Hong Kong agent.
Such tax irregularities have occurred as the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau determined the companies’ remuneration payments to Regent Star, a Hong Kong agent, which has a connection with Chief Minister of Sarawak Taib Mahmud and his family, were rebates, not legitimate expenses, the sources said.
Although the Hong Kong agency did very little in the way of substantive work, the shipping companies are believed to have used rebates as a lubricant to facilitate their lumber trade, the sources added.
Lumber export is controlled by the Sarawak state government on grounds of forest resources protection.
Rejecting the tax authorities’ conclusion, the shipping firms claim the transactions with Regent Star have been legitimate and deny wrongdoing.
The companies accused of the alleged tax evasion include Mitsui O.S.K. Kinkai Ltd. and NYK-Hinode Line Ltd. belonging to the Nanyozai Freight Agreement (NFA), a cartel formed in 1962 to avoid excessive competition in import of lumber from Southeast Asia. The 12-member group is exempt from the Antimonopoly Law.
The shipping firms will likely be slapped with well over 400 million yen in back taxes along with heavy penalties, the sources added.
According to NFA and other sources, the Japanese cartel concluded an agreement in 1981 with Malaysia’s Dewaniaga Sarawak regarding lumber transport. Dewaniaga is a state-affiliated concern in charge of lumber export control and is headed by the Sarawak chief minister’s younger brother.