Sunday, April 8, 2012

Anifah named in MACC probe into Sabah timber graft



Anifah named in MACC probe into Sabah timber graft - Malaysiakini

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman has been a secret beneficiary of lucrative timber licences in Sabah thanks to his elder brother, Chief Minister Musa Aman, said Sarawak Report.

The whistleblower website said it has in its possession leaked Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) documents showing its investigators had concluded that the Sabah chief minister had corruptly issued timber licences to his brother worth tens of millions of ringgit.

According to Sarawak Report, the documents form part of a major investigation by the MACC into timber corruption after an agent and nominee for Musa Aman, Michael Chia, was caught attempting to smuggle RM16 million out of Hong Kong in 2008.

“However, the investigation has been blocked at the highest levels and its findings kept secret, until now.

“Our informants say that the brothers’ relative and fellow Sabahan, attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, has refused to allow charges to be brought and PM Najib Razak has scandalously turned a blind eye to the affair.”

Sarawak Report claimed that Abdul Gani, who is closely connected to the Aman family, has refused to pursue the case.

“Indeed the attorney-general has forced the MACC to shelve its entire investigation in Sabah, which was one of the largest and most extensive ever undertaken by that body, and involved sums amounting to billions of ringgit siphoned out of the state by corruption at the highest level.”

Last week, MACC deputy commissioner (operations) Mohd Shukri Abdull lamented that Attorney-General's Chambers had refused to bring many “valid cases” the commission had investigated to court due to “insufficient evidence”.

Major conflict of interest

The website said with Gani’s close relationship with the Musa family, the AG should have opted out of making a decision on the investigations.

“In such cases, where there is a plain conflict of interest the government’s top law officer has to be seen to be acting from a position of impartiality,” said Sarawak Report.

The website detailed documents in their possession that named Anifah and a nephew, Hairul Aman as beneficiaries of two major timber concessions through two companies allegedly linked to them.

One, Aktif Syabas Sdn Bhd, had license to harvest 4,336 hectares of timber in Yayasan Sabah land, and purchase residual timber from another 3,000 hectares.

“The other deal, made with the company Para Era Sdn Bhd, is even more shocking. It allows the concessionaire to extract timber from 2,000 hectares of virgin forest at the Pinagah Forest Reserve (above, circled),” it said.

Sarawak Report lamented that the forest reserve was “totally razed by 2007".

Recalling a “headline-grabbing case” in 2007 where MACC had detained 20 lorries and 5,000 logs worth millions allegedly harvested from virgin forests, the whistleblower noted that not a single arrest had precipitated.

“Tragically, our information is that the forest reserve was totally razed by 2007, despite the strictures about only felling trees over 60cm.

“This MACC information substantiates complaints from within the industry that Musa Aman has turned existing corruption in Sabah’s timber business into a full-scale rape of the remaining forests in the state.”

The Anifah connection

Sarawak Report added that it was noteworthy that both deals were awarded shortly after Musa became chief minister and chairperson of the board of trustees of Yayasan Sabah in 2003.

It said while Musa was not named directly in any of the companies’ public documents, the practice of employing nominees was a “standard” practice in Sabah.

“...insiders claim that the use of nominees is standard in the Sabah timber business and clearly the investigation by MACC officials led them to conclude, after months of investigation, that the foreign minister was the true concessionaire," it said.

It added that the leaked papers in their possession show that the MACC investigators "did believe there was such a corrupt link and that Aman was the beneficiary”.

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