KUALA LUMPUR, June 3 ― In the spotlight over his family’s alleged wealth as a Muslim court hears his divorce case, Datuk Seri Mahmud Abu Bekir Abdul Taib played down his affluence today, saying his estranged wife relied on information fed by “crooked investigators” based in Canada.
Accused of having shored up “billions of ringgit” domestically as well as abroad, the son of Sarawak governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud said Shahnaz Abdul Majid had relied on “fictitious” banking information that was “cooked up” by private investigator Cullen Johnson and his wife Elaine White in “grossly exaggerating” his wealth.
“Cullen and his wife Elaine... had been wanted by Canadian authorities since 2009 for charges of fraud. They fled to the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2010 before their trial,” he said in a statement.
Shahnaz, sister to popular singer Datuk Sheila Majid, previously testified that Abu Bekir has an estimated RM1 billion in assets locally and some US$700 million (RM2.2 billion) in bank accounts globally, in their matrimonial dispute case.
Last week, assistant vice-president of CIMB Bank’s Customer Resolution Department, P. Magendran Pillai, testified that Abu Bekir owned over RM8.25 million in six current and fixed deposit accounts as of September 2012.
Prior to Magendran’s testimony, Shahnaz had engaged the services of chartered accountant Andrew Heng, who is a partner at the firm linked to prominent London-based Baker Tilly Monterio Heng, to audit Abu Bekir’s wealth locally and found that the latter’s total assets in Malaysia ranged from around RM916 million to over RM1.33 billion, with the bulk being earnings from the plantation industry.
Heng, in his testimony in January, said Shahnaz’ had informed auditors that Abu Bekir owned shares in 85 foreign companies including those in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States, but it was left out as it was beyond the scope of the audit on the latter’s wealth
But Abu Bekir asked the Shariah High Court here to check Shahnaz’ claims on his alleged foreign wealth, claiming it was based “lies, distortions and misrepresentations”.
“I am absolutely certain and confident that such accounts do not exist,” said Abu Bekir.
Abu Bekir, who is the son of Sarawak Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, said Johnson, a former policeman, ran a private investigative business, which offered asset tracing services, among others, to assist in divorce cases, together with White, who is a former forensics accountant.
Citing Canadian broadcasters CBC News, Abu Bekir said Johnson and White traced money through various banking platforms, and supplied their clients with fraudulent banking information and forged bank records.
The records are meant to show relocation of funds to and from bank accounts in the US, Canada, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe and other foreign locations, he said.
“On April 10, 2013, Johnson and White were extradited to the US from a Turks and Caicos prison on charges of money laundering, tax evasion and several charges of fraud valued at over US$1 million (RM3.23 million),” said Abu Bekir.
He added that Johnson and White have been “duping” their clients by promising documents on “offshore millions” and “concocted astoundingly realistic international banking information” to mislead clients.
He added that his lawyers are in the midst of investigating how Shahnaz engaged Johnson in 2012 to allegedly hack into bank accounts, which were purportedly his.
Abu Bekir had previously demanded Shahnaz’ produced evidence to back her claims pertaining to the foreign accounts, including testimonies from bank managers from the international banks but the documents were not furnished.
“Shahnaz and her legal team should explain how they commissioned and obtained them from fraudsters who have been indicted and jailed,” he said, adding that Shahnaz and her legal team should also come clean on whether she had knowingly engaged “fraudsters”.
Shahnaz is seeking RM400 million in divorce settlement, including RM300 million worth in matrimonial property and a further RM100 million in “muta’ah”, or Islamic conciliatory payment, as well as half the assets owned by her ex-husband, including some seven luxury cars, thousands of hectares of land in Sarawak and homes in countries abroad.
In testifying in the RM100 million conciliatory payment hearing today, Abu Bekir said his marriage with Shahnaz began to fall apart after she became suspicious of his activities.
According to news reports, Abu Bekir said they had enjoyed two years of blissful marriage before their relationship soured as a result of Shahnaz’ erratic behaviour, including yelling in public over petty matters.
She had also filed another RM121 million suit against Abu Bekir for child maintenance for their son Raden Murya Taib Mahmud.
Abu Bekir filed for divorce from Shahnaz on May 11, 2011, almost two decades after they married in 1992.