[By Our Guest Writer from Asian Tatler Magazine]
We all love to admire this well-connected socialite and businesswoman, Elia Abas/ Geneid! She may look like a barely-dressed party girl, but Elia was scarcely into her 20s by the time she had established herself as a major figure in the oil palm plantation business, with a series of multi-million ringgit concessions all to herself!
But, of course the gorgeous young trend-setter is also Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s neice and therefore has several brilliant (if hidden) attributes. Indeed, the Taib family has provided endless shining examples for the rest of Sarawak’s youth, showing how to seize the many ‘Equal Opportunities’ that are handed to them through government projects!
As Taib exhorts the rest of the nation’s young people to show more energy and initiative and to work their way out of poverty, he can be proud of how all his nieces and nephews have been so successful in demonstrating the path to riches
The party-scene will miss you Elia!
Even more amazingly, Elia has been able to turn herself into a multi-millionairess, while at the same time managing to spend so much time publicly partying and carrying on with goodness-knows how many chaps! Two marriages and three engagements in two years is pretty good going for such a young thing!
Isn’t it lucky she has made so much money that she can pay for the millions of ringgit that has been spent in celebrating it all? “Work hard and play hard” is clearly the motto that has been drummed into the mini-Taibs from an early age by their stern Uncle (the Chief Minister himself!!!). [See our earlier reports with pictures on these lavish events] and [More here!]
So, what do we know about Elia’s business career and how she has maximised the opportunities which are on offer to her and also of course to others? Well, in 2008 Elia managed to secure an amazingly good deal with the Land Custody and Development Agency (LCDA) that happens to be controlled by her Uncle Taib. She spotted the opportunity, whereas others were so slow and lazy that they never even knew that the land was available!
In fact the eagle-eyed Elia had worked out that nearly 10,000 hectares of land had been removed from Native Customary Land owners in Tatau, Bintulu without them even having realised the situation! She moved double-quick and (presumably because nobody else had yet expressed an interest in the land) she was able to pick it up for a mere snitch at just RM5.5 million. This was a fraction of its real value of course and she arranged for it to be paid in installments later! What a hard business brain!!
‘Stupid’ Iban natives miss out!
Sarawak Report has made enquiries and discovered that the Iban communities of Tatau had their land alienated by Taib in 1996. The stupid things are so poor they claim they could not afford a lawyer to fight their case, so how do they ever expect to take advantage of the opportunities Taib so kindly makes available to them? Quite rightly, Taib has once again this week denounced as ‘crabs’ (?) those people who criticise the wealth of go-getters like Elia and the rest of his family members. In fact he has made so many speeches denouncing the critics of his wealth we really think this must be the key platform on which he wishes to fight the coming election. We have such a clever Chief Minister – three cheers for all your wealth and let us remind everyone about it and how cleverly you accumulated it!
Once the Ibans had lost their lands, Taib sold the timber concession to Borneo Pulp and Paper, who chopped down the 150 million year old jungle (the oldest in the world by the way) and turned it into …. well pulp and paper. Then in 2008 it was Elia’s chance to show her quick-witted gumption. She rounded up RM5.5 million (from her piggy bank?) and made the purchase before anyone else could get to hear about it. Well, no one else was going to hear about it actually, because in his ‘land of equal opportunity’ Taib likes to hand these concessions out privately… to his family.
Minda from Sugai Anap (son of the former Pengulu Jipun) is a spokesmen for the Iban longhouse communities who have lost their livelihoods because of this development. He expressed astonishment on learning that the young Elia now has the concession for his lands. He told us
“We received a letter from the British in the past to say this was our area, but the Government has now told us this is not relevant anymore. To begin with the company came and paid the 4 headmen to keep quiet, but when they came with their bulldozers we made a police report. This matter is in discussion now”.
Ikrar Bumi Sdn Bhd
Elia managed to secure a series of so-called ‘Provisional Licences’ to turn the whole area into an oil palm plantation between 2008 and 2009 – the deal was finalised in March last year. The licences are provisional, because in theory the local people who have Native Customary Rights in the area need to be brought into agreement about it. But nobody really takes any notice of these useless types – no commercial instinct, basically lazy.
The company under which Elia has secured this huge land-bank is called Ikrar Bumi Sdn Bhd. Coincidentally, it is registered at the headquarters address of Parabena, a company run by her mother Raziah Mahmud who is Taib’s sister. Taib himself has shares in Parabena and this company has received a large number of valuable Government contracts and concessions. We have calculated that the sister companies registered at Parabena address have received lands totalling an area of about half the size of Brunei! What a truely amazing family?!
Of course Elia is a very young lady, so the person who has actually been doing the boring work of dealing with the land registry on her behalf is shown in the official records to be one Joanna Kho, who happens to be her Mum’s secretary. Kho gives her telephone number as the main number for Parabena Sd Bhd.
But there is no doubt as to whom the beneficiary of all this is. Elia is her mother’s second child, born during the first of her three marriages. Therefore her actual name is Elia Abas, the name of Raziah’s first husband. Elia Abas is a Director of Ikrar Bumi, as is her mother. She also owns 998 of 1,000 shares of the company! Gosh!
Elia’s business acumen is further demonstrated by the fact that although Ikrar Bumi had only RM1,000 in shareholder capital, she has been able to convince her Uncle Taib that it is acceptable to purchase a RM5.5 million state asset with only a promise of future payment. Why cannot the rest of Sarawak’s youth just buck up and take notice and follow this shining example? We should all feel ashamed to be poor when Elia manages to be so fabulously rich!
Where she will make her money?
However, Elia is still to close the deal by transferring her new lands for a multi-million profit to another gneuine plantation company which can actually get down to the business of sorting out any complaints from the natives and digging up their lands to plant oil palm. After all you can’t really expect a pretty, rich girl of such quality like her to dirty her hands with an actual job!
Normally, any protests about the ‘provisional licence’ sold on by the likes of Elia have been easily dealt with by such second parties. They just lie. The natives are told they have no rights and that the licence is not provisional, but a full licence to log and then plant the land. The stupid fellows are led to believe that they are not elegible for more than a few ringgit compensation! If they do kick up a fuss, well then the gangsters move in and the police turn a blind eye until the issue is sorted out.
Well that is business for you and it is how the Taibs take advantage of their opportunities. You really do have to admire how clever they are, really don’t you? Amazing! But, in fact, we are getting just a little bit worried on behalf of the stylish Elia. By this time, as the practice goes, she should have long-since washed her hands of the matter and sold on the licence to one of these enforcers for a fat profit.
But is the gravy train coming to an end for the Taibs?
Confidentially, Sarawak Report’s Tatler Correspondent is left wondering why Raziah and Robert have allowed such a long time to pass before encouraging their daughter to cash in on her profits and quickly distance herself?
Certainly, in previous years such a sale would have been conducted in a matter of days or weeks! So has Elia been too diverted by the preparations for her three lavish wedding parties over the past couple of years? Or could the family be encountering deeper problems?
Perhaps they are suddenly finding it rather hard to find a buyer willing to take on their hot potato? Don’t forget these days there could be a very messy and public court case now the angry locals have discovered what has happened.
Things are changing very fast on that front. More and more of these situations are ending up in court, thanks to Land Rights Lawyers such as the new PKR leader Baru Bian. He has 200 such cases going through the courts and has started winning against the Government of Taib Mahmud with frightening regularity!
And, of course there is another problem, which is that all these big oil palm companies want to look ‘sustainable’ these days. It is the new fashion and Tatler says it is hot, hot, hot! Meano Deforestation is out, Greenwash is in!
So, buying dodgy provsional licences off the internationally notorious Mahmud Family doesn’t look at all good on the Annual Report and would involve a lot of explaining to shareholders and NGOs! Best avoided. Look at the example just this week, when Mummy Raziah’s own latest land grab in Simunjan, Sebangan was halted by the courts. This is an expensive blow to Quality Concrete Sdn Bhd, which had taken on the area at enormous cost after a huge payout to Raziah. They had even given her a position on their Board and shares in the company to sweeten the deal!
So, could it be that pretty, clever, go-getting Elia is having a difficult time finding her buyer after all? What was easy a couple of years back may not be so easy now!
Do not criticise the ‘wealth creators’ like Elia!
All this must be causing worrying moments for the the Chief Minister, who has been trying time and again in speech after speech to get it through to us that we must ENCOURAGE the wealth-creating activities of young ladies like Elia for the good of us all.
Where would we be without all her expenditure? What about the jobs serving at her parties and cleaning after her (and writing about her)? We NEED her wealth!
There is also the personal concern of the Chief Minister that his family may not yet be quite rich enough and of course he may have a whole lot more little ones to worry about very soon indeed with his lovely young wife, so many decades his junior.
For these reasons Taib is known to have started threatening the judges who have been finding against him in these cases and seeking to undermine their careers. However, they are answering to the judgements of a higher court and have little option but to carry out the law.
This all may mean that Elia will have to restrict herself to just two husbands. Unlike her mother she may not be able to afford a third!