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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 ?
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.
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).
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.
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!
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!
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.
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?
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”.
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.
Filed under: Umum