15 September 2013

Inside Malaysia's Shadow State

Title: Inside Malaysia's Shadow State
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Year: 2013
  • Fatimah Abdul Rahman
  • Norlia Abdul Rahman
  • Alvin Chong of Alvin Chong and Partners Kuching
  • Huang Long Ong

This investigation provides undercover footage of the corruption and illegality at the heart of governance in Sarawak, Malaysia’s largest state, on the island of Borneo.

For over thirty years, Sarawak has been governed by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who controls all land classification, forestry and plantation licenses in the state. Under his tenure, Sarawak has experienced some of the most intense rates of logging seen anywhere in the world. The state now has less than five per cent of its forests left in a pristine condition, unaffected by logging or plantations and continues to export more tropical logs than South America and Africa combined.

The film reveals for the first time the instruments used by the ruling Taib family and its lawyers to skirt Malaysia’s laws and taxes. It shows how they cream off huge profits at the expense of indigenous people, and hide their dirty money in Singapore.

Taib and the local lawyers we approached denied Global Witness’s allegations of corruption. A summary of their responses is included at the end of the film.

Inside Malaysia's Shadow State is a short documentary about corruption by an elite family and their connections in Sarawak, Malaysia. The videos were taken secretly during business meetings for a real estate transaction, wherein the undercover investigator poses as a potential foreign investor.

It is alarming how entitled these people, particularly the relatives of the Chief Minister of Sarawak, seem to be regarding what they call 'state land' and 'government land'. It's even more disturbing how they nonchalantly talked about ways to circumvent the local laws. When the foreign investor asked if they may get in trouble with the proposed payment arrangement that reduces the Real Property Gains Tax liability of the sellers, Norlia Abdul Rahman replied, "No. It's been done... It's been done before."

The lawyer Alvin Chong is intriguing  because of his blatant pride on being part of the elite and powerful through his words such as "jurisdiction by choice for people like us" when talking about conducting business transactions in Singapore. His arrogance on his ideas and methods to go around local laws knows no bounds.

The Inside Malaysia's Shadow State documentary also shows corruption on a global scale; how international banks, conglomerates, and certain government institutions help facilitate corruption. For more information about this topic, I highly recommend Charmian Gooch's talk entitled Meet Corruption's Hidden Players (which you can find at the end of the post).

Charmian Gooch - Meet Global Corruption's Hidden Players

Inside Malaysia's Shadow State