NGOs demand UN sanctions against Malaysia over Taib crimes

Malaysian government criticized for unlawfully protecting Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud from criminal prosecution

In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, 21 NGOs from nine countries are calling on the United Nations to impose sanctions against Malaysia for the country’s systematic breach of its obligations under international anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering treaties.

The NGO coalition, led by the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund, criticizes the Malaysian government’s non-implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) in the case of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud (“Taib”). In particular, the Malaysian authorities are criticized for granting unlimited legal and political protection to Taib, one of the wealthiest, most powerful and longest-serving politicians in South East Asia, who is the chief culprit when it comes to the large-scale destruction of Malaysia’s tropical rainforests by logging.

Taib Mahmud has concurrently held the posts of Chief Minister, Finance Minister and Minister for Natural Resources of Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state, since 1981. Three decades in office have allowed him and his closest family members to amass illicit assets worth an estimated several billion US dollars. Research by the Bruno Manser Fund has shown that the inner circle of the Taib family holds business interests in more than 400 companies in 25 countries and offshore finance centres.

“It is alleged that the Malaysian authorities are deliberately and actively protecting Mr. Taib and his family members from criminal prosecution”, say the NGOs. “Malaysia’s failure to charge Mr. Taib with criminal and other offences is contrary to its international duties and legal obligations as a party to UNCAC and UNTOC.”

“It is also worth noting that Malaysia’s anti-corruption authority, the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC), appears not to be independent. It has no real control, but rather appears to be used as a tool to keep the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition in power, of which Taib Mahmud is a key supporter.”

The NGOs are calling on the United Nations “to reprimand Malaysia, as party to UNCAC and UNTOC, and as a member of the international community, for its inaction over the Taib case and to impose sanctions or take other appropriate measures against Malaysia.”

The complaint has been endorsed by NGOs from Malaysia, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, Nepal and Australia.

Last December, a similar NGO coalition provided detailed evidence of Taib family crimes to Malaysia’s top prosecutors and asked them to arrest and prosecute Taib Mahmud and twelve of his family members. But the Attorney General of Malaysia, the Inspector General of Police and the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission failed to reply to or comment on the NGOs’ grievances.

The UN complaint against Malaysia was highlighted this afternoon with a rally in front of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, the secretariat of the UN’s anti-corruption and anti-money-laundering treaties. The rally was followed by a closed-door meeting between an NGO delegation and UN officials to discuss possible steps against Malaysia over its inaction on Taib crimes.