Impeccable service for the timber mafia. Cheques worth millions for Swiss bank UBS are mentioned. The HSBC branch in Singapore is also implicated. But there is no visual sighted in the book to back the money laundering claims. So is this dodgy business or dodgy claims?
This is a book on the trail of the Asian timber mafia with logs of destruction among tropical rain forests in the South America, African and South East Asian continents. It tells of money-making propositions and money laundering. It is touted as “one of the most comprehensive and brutally honest investigations into the intrigues of the Malaysian and international timber mafia,” said Suddeutsche Zeitung.
The promotional hype by the publisher tantalises the mind. It will have the uninitiated enthralled but as one examines it, one is met with a collage of convoluted text that is highly speculative bordering on slander, distortions and misrepresentations.
Author Lukas Straumaann singles out Sarawak state governor Abdul Taib Mahmud. The detailing log of the book is spent immensely on the geographical landscapes, the political history of the state, the past rulers, the emerging political leaders, political manoeuvres, national and state politics, the global players, etc. Throughout there are numerous accusations and claims not backed by any iron timber-hard evidence, not even a picture or document to help it stand up in court. Instead, we are shown pictures of the jungles and undergrowth, the birds and flowers, the reptiles and the tiger, activist outrage, and the indigenous inhabitants who look in dire need of some modernisation in present day 21st century.
But Straumaan does hold audiences in the first chapter with a stalking intrigue that eventually ends up as a paranoia. The catalyst for the book was found dead in a hotel in Los Angeles. Ross Boyert we are told, had pulled a plastic bag over his head, taped it tight around his neck and suffocated. He had killed himself. That’s where the thrill ends.
Other juicy elements is a brief citation that Shahnaz Abdul Majid had been married for 19 years to Taib’s elder son. She had testified in court that her former husband had 111 personal bank accounts with balances totalling more than RM700 million (USD210 million) in Canada, the USA, the Caribbean, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Hong Kong and Malaysia.
“He also owns properties in Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia and scattered all around the world,” she testified. Shahnaz’s testimony also sent shock waves to Switzerland. However, her accusations could not be substantiated. An examination carried out by the office of the Swiss Attorney General in 2013 showed only one of the Swiss banks mentioned had been a business relationship with the Taib family, the book said.
Following questions addressed by the Bruno Manser Fund to the German government in 2011, BaFin (the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority) took a close look at Duetsche Bank’s relations with the Taib family. Its examination dealt with “compliance with the different duties laid down in the anti-money laundering law” and also “the internal security measures set up by the financial institute”. BaFin concluded that there were “no grounds” for action by the regulatory authorities, the book added.
This compels the reader to closely examine the claims in the book. Nothing concrete to back-up the logs. No documentary evidence shown. Birds and reptiles cannot explain. It appears a mitigated mess. And so one can deduce and be reduced to think that this book is nothing more than a sweeping sensationalism than for real. One that perhaps calls for legal suits to be instituted. Or is this a fishing expedition for evidence to be tendered and confirmed in court?
Otherwise, Money Logging is but just a trail of hollow logs.