Musa Aman, Sabah’s Chief Minister, has come out to publicly deny that he had any business relationship with the timber trade ‘fixer’ Michael Chia, thereby implying that the hundreds of documents that have been released into our possession, along with the testimony of industry insiders, are false.
“ I wish to put it on record once again that I have no business association whatsoever with an individual named Michael Chia”[Musa Aman statement 12/11/12]
However, numerous bank statements in our possession (see example right) show the exact opposite. They indicate that Michael Chia (Chia Tien Foh) was at the centre of a web of transactions linking Sabah timber concessions to payments made to family members and key associates of Musa Aman.
One of these associates, the Sabah solicitor Richard Christopher Barnes, was arrested and held in custody, along with Michael Chia, at the time of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) investigation into Sabah timber corruption back in 2010. Huge volumes of documents were confiscated from Barnes’ offices by investigators, who prepared a major prosecution case.
Barnes and Chia are understood to have given full statements, admitting their involvement in kickbacks for concessions in the state and the MACC have told sources they drew up a dossier containing 40 charges against Musa, which was then blocked by his relative and close ally the Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patail.
Because of this failure to prosecute and the suppression of this evidence, we are continuing to review and release the documents now in our possession.
These documents strongly corroborate the allegations under investigation, that Michael Chia was acting as a collecting agent for timber kickbacks to the Chief Minister.
Michael Chia was in the timber business and regarded as the ‘collecting agent’ for Musa
Far from being forged, our documentation is extensive and wide-ranging and it is backed up by testimony received from Sabah timber industry insiders. The evidence also corroborates publicly known facts published in court cases involving Michael Chia, who was arrested in Hong Kong in 2008, while attempting to smuggle SG16million back to Malaysia.
One case in the Sabah High Court has already clearly demonstrated that Chia was acting as a “middle-man” between Yayasan Sabah and timber tycoons seeking concessions. Documents produced in evidence during Chia’s prosecution for allegedly cheating a timber concession holder, Agus Hassan, include a letter by Hassan explaining he had been told to pay a kickback to UMNO Sabah via Chia.
The letter says that Yayasan representative Mohd Tampokong was refusing to issue permission for the logging to begin until Chia was satisfied. Agus Hassan was later angered to discover that Chia took at least some of the profit himself.
But, why would Hassan, a man granted a concession by Musa Aman, think there was a kickback involved in gaining the concession and that Chia was the agent for Musa/Sabah UMNO? Why was Yayasan’s Mohd Tampkong following Chia’s instructio? And why did Hassan not just report the extortion to the Head of the Board of Yayasan Trustees, Aman himself?
These are questions that Musa Aman has yet to satisfactorily answer. However, our new evidence goes a long way towards doing just that.
- There is plenty of evidence to show that Michael Chia was not only a “middle-man” between Yayasan and timber concession-seekers, but also acquired numerous Yayasan timber concessions of his own. He has publicly acknowledged it in another on-going case in the High Court of Singapore:
“I am in the business of exporting timber logs from Malaysia internationally through my group of companies, including Rimba Kita and Rasanmewa”[Chia Tien Foh, Affidavit, High Court of Singapore 19/12/2011]
The MACC has listed numerous further concessions associated with Michael Chia as a result of its investigations (below), so why has the Chief Minister denied any dealings with Chia whatsoever? As Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Yayasan Sabah, he exerts ultimate approval over all timber licences, including those given to Chia.
These timber concession could only have been authorised by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Sabah, Musa Aman. They were awarded to a feckless young man, who had no experience in the timber trade and no family money before he set about presenting himself as the back channel to Musa Aman after 2003.
So, far from denying that he has had no association whatsoever with Mr Chia, could Musa Aman explain in detail how and why this boy was in receipt of so many state timber concessions, granted by the Board of Yayasan Trustees of which he was the Chairman?