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Malaysian corruption allegedly spreads to Canadian real estate

KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 21): Sarawak governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family have been accused of using proceeds of corruption into real estate in Canada, Bloomberg reported today.

The case also involves Bruno-Manser-Fonds (BMF), a Swiss nonprofit that works to conserve tropical rainforests, demanding some Canada’s largest financial firms to turn release information on how the money flowed.

Taib’s family used the money to expand Ottawa-based real estate company Sakto Group’s C$250 million (RM857 million) real estate business, according to a lawsuit released this week by an Ontario judge and provided to Bloomberg by BMF and its law firm.

BMF is suing the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank, Manulife Financial Corp and Deloitte & Touche for information about money going into Sakto — using the corruption allegations against Taib and his family to support its claim, Bloomberg reported.

“If the plaintiffs’ evidence is correct, there may be very significant criminal misconduct being committed here in aid of corrupt foreign official(s)," Bloomberg reported Justice Frederick Myers as saying while ordering the court documents be made public.

Earlier this year, a report by BMF detailed the real estate business empire of Taib’s family in Canada.

The 86-page report "Safe Haven Canada" was presented at the Canadian Parliament.

Sakto is owner of Ottawa’s Little Italy’s Preston Square development, grew quickly after it was founded in 1983 by Taib’s daughter, Jamilah Taib Murray, the Ottawa Sun reported in April.

Jamilah came to Ottawa as a teenager for her education and is married to Sean Murray, who also runs Sakto with his wife.

Sakto also has related businesses in the UK, the US, Australia and Malaysia, the Ottawa Sun reported.

"Safe Haven Canada" recorded that Taib said in an interview that he gave Jamilah an undisclosed amount of money to start her business in Ottawa.

He said the money was from a gratuity he received after resigning from the federal government back in 1981.

Sakto has rejected the allegations, calling the group’s lawsuit a fishing expedition lacking evidence to support a legitimate case, Bloomberg reported.

In a statement earlier this year, Sakto Corporation said it “is a reputable, local Canadian company whose officers, directors and shareholders are Canadian”.

“The company is led by a local family known for being community supporters and philanthropists.”

BMF is based in Basel, Switzerland and works to protect threatened tropical rainforests and the rights of forest peoples in Sarawak.

It was founded by Swiss environmental activist Bruno Manser, who disappeared in Malaysia back in 2000.

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