Industry insiders have revealed that the main suppliers of timber to the cheating Asia Plywood Company, are the well-known Sarawak tycoons, the Miri-based Hii family.
Asia Plywood, which rents the major saw mill ‘Tegas Kesuma’, based in Tanjung Manis, is Malaysia’s largest plywood company.
Earlier this week it was caught out deceiving regulators and customers in the UK and elsewhere by pretending that hardwood chopped out of Sarawak’s dwindling forests was sustainable pinewood. [see our investigation]
We can now disclose that a major provider to Tegas Kesuma is the company Fonsen Timber Sdn Bhd, owned by the Hii family concern Fonsen Holdings.
The Hiis have been granted licences by their close associate, Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, to strip the remaining forests from areas around Bintulu, earmarked for further oil palm plantations.
Another major supplier to the mill was the now dissolved Excellent Future, which was registered at the same address in Jalan Masjid in Miri as Fonsen Holdings and likewise controlled by the Hiis.
Insiders have confirmed that the main director of the companies is Hii King Chiong, who is the son of Hii Yii Peng, the tycoon who is best known as the owner of Kingwood Hotel group.
Top Taib cronies
Taib, who issues all concessions in the state, is personally responsible for the relentless and unrestrained plunder of timber over the past 30 years. Before him it was his uncle, whom at the time Taib saw fit to criticise for his greedy destruction of Sarawak’s irreplaceable jungle!
It is worth pointing out that no wood from Sarawak has ever achieved certification from the internationally recognised Forest Stewardship Council, simply because Taib’s logging has been so unsustainable.
So, it is particularly revealing to investigate the business interests that link the Hiis, who are such key beneficiaries of timber and plantation concessions, with the Chief Minister himself and his family.
Take, for example, one of the largest plantation enterprises in Sarawak, Delta Padi, which is currently blessed with concessions handed out at rock bottom rates by the Chief Minister. Delta Padi has lucratively logged thousands of hectares of wild forest in Pulau Bruit and in other areas around Mukah, before setting about planting oil palm. Local people were offered nothing for the destruction of their livelihoods.
So, who owns Delta Padi? It turns out to be a joint venture between the Hii family and a company Mesti Bersatu.
We have mentioned Mesti Bersatu before. It turns out to be owned by Abdul Taib Mahmud himself and members of his own family!
As numerous insiders have testified, the corrupt system favoured by the Chief Minister is for the money for such joint ventures to be put up by favoured tycoons. His own contribution to the venture is his willingness to abuse his position of political power.
Thus he can be seen handing his own family companies great chunks of state owned territory (or more often Native Customary Land) as part of a series of joint ventures funded by others!
Delta Padi is just one example of blatant corruption by the Chief Minister to enrich himself, using joint ventures with the crony Hii family. Another is the Kingwood group.
Kingwood Inns are one of the best known hotel chains in Sarawak. The group also owns a major travel company called Kingwood Travel Services Sdn Bhd.
So, it perhaps comes as little surprise to learn that Taib also has a major stake in this profitable group of concerns. A substantial shareholder of Kingwood Inn Sdn Bhd, is again Mesti Bersatu!
At this point Sarawak Report is forced to ask, yet again, that the Chief Minister publicly defend his extraordinary claim that he and his family do no business in Sarawak!
More kickbacks from the Hiis
There are plenty of other Taib family members who are also blatantly taking advantage of the Hii family’s ‘obligations’ as a top receiver of favours and concessions from ‘Uncle Taib’. These include daughters and sisters.
How it works is, since Uncle Taib has long since ditched the conventional practice of open tendering, in favour of corruptly handing out licences behind closed doors, his family members are able to crowd in and demand kickbacks from the lucky cronies he chooses.
Taib is also able to squeeze these same businessmen into funding his political expenses (such as bribing voters in the coming Federal Election and supporting proteges in the SUPP) and also other events such as the ludicrous Islamic Fashion Show in Monaco, which Taib supposedly sponsored in 2010.
In fact it was the Hii family who put up a large chunk of the money that Taib flashed around in Monaco on that occasion, as he attempted to ingratiate himself with the plainly naive Prince Albert. The Prince gratefully accepted a 100,000 euro cheque for his Foundation handed to him by PM Najib’s wife Rosmah, but the money was actually funded by the Hiis and funnelled through Taib!
What irony that Prince Albert’s Foundation is supposed to be dedicated to saving the Environment! Readers are welcome to calculate how many trees the Hii family would have had to unsustainably log to make that 100,000 euro payment to present to the playboy Prince!
Their reward? A photo with Taib at the event, to which they had dutifully turned up and the promise of many more perks and concessions, as long as they continue to pay suitable kickbacks!
As the very large baubles worn by the Taib family women at the event and round their newest tax haven playground amply demonstrate, the CM could of course have found the money himself. However, for Taib wealth has become a sickness and he is famously mean.
Other close ventures with Taib family members include Bormill Wood (Trengganu) Sdn Bhd, which is owned by Taib’s Canadian daughter Jamilah and the Hii’s and The Sarawak Company Sdn Bhd, which is owned by Taib’s brother Tufail and the Hii’s.
And what about the venture between Taib’s sister Raziah Mahmud and the Hii family over the Miri Airport by-pass road? As we have previously reported, Taib handed his sister large areas of land in the town through her companies Kumpulan Parabena and Miri Properties (in which Taib himself owns a stake, once again via Mesti Bersatu).
She sub-contracted the development of the area and the road contract, all of which had been handed to her for free by brother Taib, to the Hii company Rich Venture!
The ‘clever businesswoman’ Raziah has always remembered to skim off a large cut for her effortless middle-man transactions, made possible by her brother’s toe-curling corruption!