KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed refuted claims today that Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s impending elevation to the post of Sarawak governor would grant him legal immunity from all criminal investigations.
The nation’s longest-serving former prime minister said the outgoing Sarawak chief minister could still be subjected to corruption probes and charges should local graftbusters decide to investigate any claim against him.
“No one has immunity in this country,” Dr Mahathir told reporters today when asked to comment on whether Taib becoming state governor would enable him to avoid investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
“It is up to MACC (whether or not they want to investigate Taib),” he added.
PKR has claimed it has fresh documents that alleges possible corrupt practices in Taib’s administration, marring the outgoing Sarawak chief minister’s likely elevation as the resource-rich state’s next governor.
The opposition party’s strategic director Rafizi Ramli said last week he will provide the documents to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
According to Rafizi, a timber concession company called Regent Star Company Limited that is owned by Taib’s brother, Onn Mahmud, had been investigated in Japan previously on tax evasion charges after receiving a commission for 1 billion yen.
The Pandan MP further alleged that Taib had tried to block investigations into the matter when the claims first surfaces in 2006, and was later forced to deny any connection or knowledge about Regent Star’s dealings.
He also alluded to a document — published on the Sarawak whistleblower’s website — that purportedly showed a money transfer of US$20 million (RM66.4 million) from Richfold Investments Limited, a company that Onn also supposedly controls, to Sakto Development Corporation, which Rafizi said was owned by Jamilah Taib and her husband.
He said he was “made to understand” that new documents linking Taib to overseas investment companies as well as the three companies he had mentioned, will be handed over to Japanese authorities very soon.
The opposition lawmaker has also urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong against considering appointing Taib as the Sarawak governor when the latter retires as Sarawak chief minister on February 28.
Should Taib be given the post, he may be “immune” to potential prosecution on corruption charges, Rafizi said — an observation that was also noted last week by British weekly, The Economist, in an article in its Banyan column that covers Southeast Asian politics.
Taib has been under investigation by Malaysia’s anti-graft agency since 2011 and is regularly accused by activist groups of enriching his family through his control over awarding huge infrastructure contracts.
Taib, 77, is seen as a political heavyweight whose 33-year hold on the oil-rich state that is also Malaysia’s biggest has drawn legions of critics who argue that his administration is marred with corruption and cronyism.
Sarawak-born environmental activist Clare Rewcastle-Brown — the sister-in-law of former British prime minister, Gordon Brown — runs the Sarawak Report website and has been a long-time critic of Taib.
After 33 years as chief minister, Taib announced he will retire on February 28 and has named his handpicked successor as Tan Sri Adenan Satem, a former brother-in-law who is currently PBB vice-president and a Sarawak state minister.