3 Sep 2010

Samling at ‘Epicentre’ of Sub-prime Crash!

Samling at ‘Epicentre’ of Sub-prime Crash!

Samling - extracting the wealth of Sarawak

Samling, the giant logging company owned by the timber tycoon Yaw Teck Seng and favoured with numerous timber licences by the Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, was at the heart of the housing bubble that led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the world economic crash, according to our exclusive research.

We have established that Mountain House, a major new-town development in San Joaquin California, currently labelled as the ‘epicentre’ of the housing crash, was a Yaw family project.

How US ‘Dream Homes’ became ‘Mortgage Nightmares’

Started in 2001, Mountain House was originally advertised as “The Town of Tomorrow” and “The American Dream Made

Samling - Investing in Mountain House, California

Reality” with houses selling for over $800,000, mainly through sub-prime mortgages.  But, in the aftermath of the crash, the part-built project has been abandoned by the original developer and the town has been identified as the most “underwater” community in America, with over 89% of the properties now worth far less than the amount of money borrowed to buy them.

The prices of these houses are now half what they were in 2006, leaving buyers in a repossession nightmare.

From environmental devastation in Sarawak to economic devastation in the US

Dream homes dived from over $800,000 to under $400,000

Samling’s extraordinary involvement at the centre of the world’s greatest financial scandal was the culmination of years of massive investment in real estate across the United States, according to our research.  This investment came out of the profit from logging in Sarawak under heavily criticised permits granted by the Chief Minister and Resources Planning Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud.

Following last week’s condemnation of Samling Global by the Norwegian Government as an ‘unethical’ company, involved in ‘illegal logging’ and ‘environmental devastation’ in Sarawak, we reported how a Yaw family subsidiary, CSY Investments, had passed two multi-million dollar mansions to the Taib family in Seattle, in what appeared to be an unrecorded property tranfer linked to a US $1 dollar Quit Claim deal.

‘Unethical’ and over in the US

Sunchase specialise in 'Master-Planned Communities' created from 'distressed real estate assets'

We can now further reveal that CSY Investments formed just part of a multi-million dollar web of Yaw-owned companies in the United States, primarily involved in property development.  These companies were subsidiaries and affiliates of SunChase Holdings Inc, a California registered company incorporated in 1988 by Chee Siew Yaw, a son of the Samling boss.

With Chee S Yaw as its original President and Chief Executive, SunChase Holdings has been involved in a number of massive land-deals across the USA, including the largest real estate partnership ever formed with the U.S. Government”, according to its own publicity.

The registered shareholder of SunChase Holdings was, until recently, Universe Limited, a Liberian company, which according to an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was “controlled by Hiew Tek Seng and the Yaw family, all citizens of Malaysia”.  The   companies and subsidiaries linked to SunChase Holdings are mainly operated out of Phoenix, Arizona.

Chee S Yaw - youthful entrepreneur with deep pockets

Deep pockets that fuelled the Housing Bubble

SunChase Holdings has clearly been exceptional among United States development corporations in possessing an extraordinary level of shareholder capital from the very beginning.  Straight after graduating from California State University,  Sacramento, with a BSc in Real Estate, Land Use and Finance in 1986, the youthful Chee S Yaw immediately demonstrated his access to enormous sums for investment.

One his first subsidiary ventures was Trimark Communities LLC, set up in July 1988, with himself as President.  This became the company behind the disastrous Mountain House town project.  Documents released by San Joaquin County state that between 1990 and 1992 Trimark bought over 70% of the 7.8 square mile site outright and began seeking approval for an approximately half billion dollar development project comprising the largest housing scheme in California.

Business Partner - The US Federal Government

Approval was finally granted after two decades of lobbying and in the face of lawsuits filed by the State Department of Fish and Game over environmental concerns (environmental battles being nothing new for  Samling).  Meanwhile, SunChase had impressed the authorities with numerous other grand-scale projects in which it played the main investor. The company claims it specialises in building ‘large-scale, master-planned communities’ and ‘managing distressed real estate assets’ (repossessed property).

In particular SunChase emerged as the top bidder for Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) land auctioned off by the  US Federal Government in the aftermath of the Savings and Loans crisis of the late 80s.  The National Land Fund set up partnerships between the Government and private investors to take control of  billions of dollars worth of ‘distressed real estate assets’ offloaded by troubled lending companies, usually at rock-bottom prices.  Sunchase was the biggest private investor in the scheme, obtaining $2 billion of assets, according to the company.

A Federal Audit Report issued in 1999 confirms,  “In April 1993, the RTC selected SunChase Holdings, Inc., as the winning bidder for five of the six pools of assets offered in the National Land Fund I initiative”.

Indeed, Sunchase currently boasts:

“The company is proud of its heritage as the managing general partner in the National Land Fund, the largest real estate partnership ever formed with the U.S. Government”.

American Dream turns to a nightmare with Samling

Computer generated - the commercial centre not yet built

Mountain House finally gained planning permission on the basis that it promised to create a sustainable, self-contained new town that would create sufficient jobs for its inhabitants.

The original county Master Plan promised affordable housing to meet the Bay Area housing crisis, together with retail and business outlets.  But from the start sceptics pointed out that the project looked more like a ‘get-rich-quick scheme’ by the developer with little provision for real employment.

Indeed, the promotional material by Trimark Communities clearly targeted the aspirations of middle-class Californians looking for grander accommodation in an area of housing shortages.  The company marketed Mountain House, as the American Dream in the Town of Tomorrow, promising traditional-style, detached houses built around 14 separate ‘village’ settings, each with a school, leisure centre, open spaces and commercial heart for business enterprises.  Although the San Joaquin authorities had understood that houses would be priced around an affordable $200,000, the demand for grander homes and the availability of dubious lending mechanisms and sub-prime loans meant that prices before the crash in 2007 were topping four times that amount.

Road to nowhere - Mountain House, Samling's California New Town

Within weeks of the crash all had changed. 16,000 houses were supposed be built, providing accommodation for 44,000 people, in the most ambitious development project in California for decades, but as the lending market collapsed, the Yaw family pulled out. Trimark Communities was dissolved in California and Chee Siew Yaw has returned to the Far East, claiming that he divested all his US interests in 2006.  As a result, Mountain House has been left part-constructed and famous for being the repossession capital of the USA.

The main losers in the disaster have been the thousands of buyers who lost their their homes and the California Public Employees Retirement Scheme (CalPERS), which had invested heavily in the project on behalf of its future pensioners. CalPERS  is believed to have lost $926 million of the value of its orignal $1.2 billion investment in the project.  Those people who have remained in Mountain House have found themselves paying huge mortgages on low-value properties in a part-built town. According to one description:

“Landscaped lawns face fields of weeds. Sheep graze on the future golf course. While two schools [out of  a promised 14] have been built and a third is under way, there’s just one retail business, a convenience store. The closest supermarket is five miles away. A multimillion-dollar bridge — designed to link the southern and northern halves of town — has been fenced off. It’s our bridge to nowhere”.

Bridge to nowhere

So, like the indigenous people of Sarawak, the people of Mountain House are now living with the devastation wreaked on their lives by Samling.  According to one, “all they did was build as many houses as they could as quickly as possible to cash in on profit before the bubble burst”.

Samling back in Sarawak

In 1991 a study by the World Bank concluded that only a fraction of the possible revenue that could have been raised from timber was coming to the State of Sarawak.

The problem was described as a major ‘leakage of public resources’, which explains why the people of Sarawak have received few benefits from the loss of their valuable rainforest and remain among the poorest in Malaysia.  Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has signally failed to rectify this problem of disappearing assets, meanwhile Samling has developed the resources to become one of the major players in United States real estate.

Beaten unconscious and left pregnant - this teenage victim blames loggers

The company has been notorious for its ruthless and unsustainable practices in Sarawak, as detailed by the Norwegian government report.  Licensed by Taib, it has ripped out vast tracts of the world’s most ancient rainforest, leaving the indigenous people with little or no compensation.

These forced acquisitions of Native Customary Rights Lands have recently been ruled illegal by the Federal Court, but neither the company nor the Chief Minister Taib Mahmud have chosen to notice.

Just this week Samling demonstrated familiar ruthless tactics when managers were reported to have threatened native leaders to withdraw the numerous complaints of rape against women and young girls in the company’s concession areas, or else they will end all transport links.  Taib’s government has likewise refused to investigate the reported crimes, despite widespread evidence and several independent reports.

Road blockades are no match for Samling as they target the last remaining trees in the 130 million year old rainfores (the oldest and most bio-diverse in the world)

Lately, the company, backed by armed police, has torn down  more road blockades set up by the beleaguered Penan tribe (who are Asia’s last jungle nomads) in an attempt to protect their few remaining square miles of virgin forest and key hunting grounds.  Samling are now boring into the region, which the Penan recently proclaimed as a protected Peace Park

Finally – Sterling Pacific Assets

Interesting questions still surround the transfer of the Yaw holdings in the United States. Following Chee S Yaw’s pronounced divestment of his US assets, Sunchase Holdings was transfered to the current ownership of Sterling Pacific Assets Inc (California).

Yet Sterling Pacific Assets was already part of the SunChase Group and had previously been described as ” an affiliated professional services company” in Sunchase promotional material. The 100% shareholder of Sterling Pacific Assets of is one of the SunChase’s own company Directors, William A. Pope, who joined the Management Team in 1990, two years after the Yaw family established the company.  Nevertheless, the SunChase website currently implies that it was he who formed the company.

Lost rainforests of Sarawak

Notably, in spite of the takeover, SunChase Holdings Inc is still run out of the same offices and by the same Management Team established by Chee Siew Yaw before his abrupt departure in 2006.  The circumstances that enabled a member of the Management Team to buy out such an enormous multi-million dollar company remain unclear.

Sarawak Report and doubtless the people of Sarawak, would be interested to know whether the Yaw family do in fact retain an interest in SunChase Holdings in the USA.  Given the controversy surrounding the legality of the timber licenses issued by the Chief Minister, there is the likelihood that future enquiries that might result in the restitution of some of Sarawak’s lost profits from its many timber concessions.  SunChase Holdings in the United States might be a good place to start looking.

  • Yes Sir

    Don't blame the businessmen, they only know how to make money and more money.. nothing else.. If you want to blame, blame the politicians, the heads of government, in Sarawak, everything that's going wrong please pin point at our Taib!

    • Loga

      Typical chinaman response…they are never wrong…Even businessmen needs ethics..which unfortunately people who pray to money god will surely lack..dont even talk to thelm about living harmoniuosly with ther races

      • http://none SKUH BEI JAGIN

        WHAT YOU SAID IS WRONG.."PA LU LI ASAL LUI LATANG". WHO CARES AS LONG AS MONEY COMES.YOU CANNOT TOTALLY BLAMED THE POLITICIANS..PENSIONKAN TAIB AND HIS CRONIES.IT TAKES TOW TO TANGO.

        THERE WILL BE UPRISING IN 5 YEARS FROM NOW IF THE SITUATION IS NOT CHECKED OR ADDRESSED NOW. SERIOUS,VERY SERIOUS..

  • Jeffrey Lim

    Your reporting should be wake up call to ALL MALAYSIANS that our resources are being plundered to create unimagined wealth for a few. Maybe the principals mentioned in this report intents to transfer all the displaced Sarawakians, in particular the Penans, to the huge communities they are creating in USA so that their projects will not collapse. WHERE ARE THE NGO'S DEFENDING HUMAN RIGHTS WHEN THEY ARE NEEDED?

    • http://none DACIN SINGIT

      HELLO JL,YOU TALK AS IF YOUR BRAIN IS UNDER YOUR FEET. YOU ONLY DEPEND ON NGO,EVERYONE MUST JOIN FORCES TO COMBAT THIS PROFESSIONAL WHITE COLLAR CRIME COMMITTED BY THE THIEF MINISTER OF SARAWAK.

      WAKE UP JL,WAKE UP.DON'T BEHAVE LIKE "PA LU LI,ASAL LUI LATANG".

  • LePanther

    Wow, this is unimaginable. Malaysians really really super BOLEH! Malaysians can rock the U.S. economy and send it to the economic abyss? If someone from China, may sound more plausible. Yaw family just chewed everyone's cheese! Fantastic. Should be in the Guinness Book of Record for the ability to send 20 million U.S. people out of job.

  • http://none dino

    Chee CY, you know fairly well that you will rot in hell. But before that i will be personally kicking you butt before the devil takes you.

    See U in hell u mutherf…p/s but that taib character will kick the bucket way before me. I suppose someone will volunteer to kick his scrawny butt..

    any takers?

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  • R Krishnan

    If after all these numerous exposes with proofs, if still BN win, then it's time to do a Malacanang (Ouster of Marcos) or a Jakarta (Ouster of Suharto).

    Yeah, now all these stinking thieves will tell I am 'sediyous' 'inciting unrest' and that we should resort to 'malaysian style democratic elections' my arse!!

    In elections they will cheat, so the only way is to do a Malacanang or Jakarta and at the Peninsular Too!!

  • Sarawak Bee

    We have lost some "Foreign investment" which supposed to "benefit" the Malaysians or should i say Sarawakians. Anyway, we have to think twice when come to "Globalization". "Easy come, easy go" has never failed.

  • Robin

    Any good idea to publish this to public? I mean Kampung people? Many of them dun have a single internet, so im sure they duno about this. Make them wake-up from sleep and let them know how bad our politician… help me about this… i canot stand awes prints the news and bring back to my kampung people.

    • naeboo

      yes great idea. i'm SURE they don't know that all this is happening around them as the trees are falling everywhere near them.

      why don't tell them their votes count a lot coz no way someone as FILTHY rich (emphasis on FILTHY) as that white termite would not consider changing votes and play dirty to make sure he "wins" again.

      pah

    • Sarawak Bee

      This is the problem of Sarawak. Communication difficulty has made way for some politicians to play the games without challenge. This is the reason also while Malaysian Government suddenly realized that improvement of infrastructure can sometimes make them close their own shop.

  • BrunoMan

    PAKATAN RAKYAAT SARAWAK (PKR/DAP/PAS/SNAP and later SUPP) shld initiate something special by now, giving this to the Rural People. Don't Wait till the last minute. The articles are very interesting and with these, will give you all the needed support from the local people with all the facts, photos and figures that really exist and real to them.

    With these, very little explanation is needed to get it to the targeted audience. SARAWAK REPORT, had done their part and now it is your turn to make the deal clicking

    and burning to the maximum.

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  • electropro

    Its not only in sarawak that news like this is not reaching the people at the rural area.Im in Johor Bharu we hardly get any news from sarawak.What ever news we get is on the good things Taib have done.That's bullshit. Sorry for my language.Please tell me what can we do to stop liars and cheats like this BN goverment from stripping our nation naked.I believe calling name and using bad words on them is not going to do any thing to them. Maybe we should send a copy of this document or column to the US senate or send a copy to all the goverments that doest business with us. Lets hope maybe someone will start a big issue over it.Its just no point we keep writing to MACC or the federal goverment. MACC or the federal goverment will not do anything . The people of sarawak is the one that is in the dilemma.Lets all think of something different to stop Taib and his thieves from striping our nation naked.For a start I'm going to forward this column to all my friends around the world and ask them to forward to their friends. Im hoping it will end up in someones hand that can put a stop to this.

  • http://google Untu

    A BURNING ISSUE

    Criminals convicted of major corruption or capital crimes are executed in China.

    There are many political & economic criminals in Sarawak who commit capital crimes against humanity but the law protects them under the guise of "legitimate" business organisations and activities…It does not question where the capital came from and importantly how it was obtained.

    Even the government of Norway (so far away) has come out to condemn Samling (the unholy trinity). Unfortunately the company directors may get away scot free with their crimes altho some of these have unravelled as in the USA subprime crisis.

    By the way the continued used of "chinaman" is very OFFENSIVE term to the Chinese as this was & is a derogatory term used by the British to put down Chinese people. For example,not that long ago the sign "Chinese & Dogs not Allowed" was posted outside the British Embassy.

    Now, are humans to be regarded or treated as "dogs"- If not, no one should abuse their freedom of speech and treat fellow humans as such. Recently UMNOputras start to say things like telling the Chinese to go back to China. This may include Malays too as they are said to have originated from somewhere in China. Not to mention many Chinese women mothered the Malay leaders of today…

    We are all fighting for justice, equality and freedom. It is sad that writers in this page should follow the Brits and practise racsim when they may even profess to reject this. You cannot want justice etc and not treat others with respect.

    Whoever we are we must respect our fellow men. Nothing comes out of the abuse that UMNO and the likes heap on other races. This only exposes their own inadequacies and inferiority complex. Treat everyone equally. No one likes to called derogatory names. Neither the Bible or Quran advocates such behaviour. Just the opposite. Love thy neighbours.

    If you have a valid comment make it in a fair and factual way. Why resort to lowly abuse?

  • Joseph

    too long become a chief minister, this is what he(TAIB) did to his own soil-Sarawak. who's to blame? who wants to vote BN again?–step down the CHIEF, man !

    • sickofBN

      Sadly enough, laments what you want.

      "The People still want me !", proclaimed Pek Moh. That is the sad truth of the day. I believe majority of the Sarawakians are just too kind to contniue vote BN and politically inert.

      • Joseph

        "The People still want me or …fill more money inside my pocket"

        …DONT BE FOOL BY HIS PSYCHOLOGICAL WORDS

        TAIB IS A PSYCHO MAN

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  • http://broadband burik bedungul

    why noboday take action against him. esp. the clever person in sarawak like lawyers.are they scared?

  • samling fren

    tat nt samling fault at all…hw did u guys knw its was YAW family???it just Mr Yaw Son…not family!and mahmud…u can resign soon…next generation turn!

  • http://none observer

    The old man should go n the money returned to the people.

  • voltac

    As usual in the name of power and benefits quit of the lost of the rain forest and who cares about a few tribe who did not have the chance to be born somewhere else….and who cares about those american who dont even know that other countries do exist as well…they sould not call this country USA but USD…and who cares about Burma …. who cares about Tibet…and who cares about North American culture…and who cares about extinction of the amazonian forest….

    • voltac

      North American culture, i mean the total extinction of the original Indian Culture, one of the respectful culture attitude based on the respect of human kind and mother nature….

  • http://none observer

    I HOPE THAT ITO AND JAPANESE WILL CONSIDER BUYING TIMBER FROM SARAWAK.ALL ARE ILLEGAL.

  • james

    HOW CAN RURAL PEOPLE LIKE THIS EASILY GOT CHEATED? WHO ARE THEIR WAKIL RAKYAK?

    • http://none DACIN SINGIT

      BRO, DON'T YOU KNOW THAT HERE IN MALAYSIA,WAKIL RAKYAT IS NOT BUT "WAKIL SENDIRI". HA HA HA HEHEHEHEH.

      HE OR SHE CANNOT DO ANYTHING AS THE KEY HERE IS WITH FAT CAT OR THE THIEF MINISTER.

  • http://none Watch Dog

    This ching came from China and settled in their bread and butter country couldn't care less about their HOSTS.They did not even pay rent to stay here and yet raped our rainforest and the girls as well.How inhumane they can be?

    Wise up,unite and we get back our land as well as wealth. Inland Revenue also dare NOT touch them as they are on the take too.

  • http://www.ab-reisen.de/hotels/oesterreich.html Österreich Reisen

    Erzähl doch bitte nochmal ein wenig ausführlicher.

    Möchte sehr gerne mehr über das ganze wissen.