Musa Aman, Sabah’s Chief Minister, has come out to publicly deny that he had any business relationship with the timber trade ‘fixer’ Michael Chia, thereby implying that the hundreds of documents that have been released into our possession, along with the testimony of industry insiders, are false.
“ I wish to put it on record once again that I have no business association whatsoever with an individual named Michael Chia”[Musa Aman statement 12/11/12]
However, numerous bank statements in our possession (see example right) show the exact opposite. They indicate that Michael Chia (Chia Tien Foh) was at the centre of a web of transactions linking Sabah timber concessions to payments made to family members and key associates of Musa Aman.
One of these associates, the Sabah solicitor Richard Christopher Barnes, was arrested and held in custody, along with Michael Chia, at the time of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) investigation into Sabah timber corruption back in 2010. Huge volumes of documents were confiscated from Barnes’ offices by investigators, who prepared a major prosecution case.
Barnes and Chia are understood to have given full statements, admitting their involvement in kickbacks for concessions in the state and the MACC have told sources they drew up a dossier containing 40 charges against Musa, which was then blocked by his relative and close ally the Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patail.
Because of this failure to prosecute and the suppression of this evidence, we are continuing to review and release the documents now in our possession.
These documents strongly corroborate the allegations under investigation, that Michael Chia was acting as a collecting agent for timber kickbacks to the Chief Minister.
Michael Chia was in the timber business and regarded as the ‘collecting agent’ for Musa
Far from being forged, our documentation is extensive and wide-ranging and it is backed up by testimony received from Sabah timber industry insiders. The evidence also corroborates publicly known facts published in court cases involving Michael Chia, who was arrested in Hong Kong in 2008, while attempting to smuggle SG16million back to Malaysia.
One case in the Sabah High Court has already clearly demonstrated that Chia was acting as a “middle-man” between Yayasan Sabah and timber tycoons seeking concessions. Documents produced in evidence during Chia’s prosecution for allegedly cheating a timber concession holder, Agus Hassan, include a letter by Hassan explaining he had been told to pay a kickback to UMNO Sabah via Chia.
The letter says that Yayasan representative Mohd Tampokong was refusing to issue permission for the logging to begin until Chia was satisfied. Agus Hassan was later angered to discover that Chia took at least some of the profit himself.
But, why would Hassan, a man granted a concession by Musa Aman, think there was a kickback involved in gaining the concession and that Chia was the agent for Musa/Sabah UMNO? Why was Yayasan’s Mohd Tampkong following Chia’s instructions? And why did Hassan not just report the extortion to the Head of the Board of Yayasan Trustees, Aman himself?
These are questions that Musa Aman has yet to satisfactorily answer. However, our new evidence goes a long way towards doing just that.
“I am in the business of exporting timber logs from Malaysia internationally through my group of companies, including Rimba Kita and Rasanmewa”[Chia Tien Foh, Affidavit, High Court of Singapore 19/12/2011]
The MACC has listed numerous further concessions associated with Michael Chia as a result of its investigations (below), so why has the Chief Minister denied any dealings with Chia whatsoever? As Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Yayasan Sabah, he exerts ultimate approval over all timber licences, including those given to Chia.
These timber concession could only have been authorised by the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Sabah, Musa Aman. They were awarded to a feckless young man, who had no experience in the timber trade and no family money before he set about presenting himself as the back channel to Musa Aman after 2003.
So, far from denying that he has had no association whatsoever with Mr Chia, could Musa Aman explain in detail how and why this boy was in receipt of so many state timber concessions, granted by the Board of Yayasan Trustees of which he was the Chairman?
Chia, who was notorious for his ‘flash’ tastes, was soon exhibiting ridiculous wealth. His string of high-performance cars included a Hummer H2, no less than three Lamborghinis, a Ferrari 430, a number of BMWs, Mercedes Benz and Toyotas.
Genuine businessmen can testify that it takes time to build such wealth from scratch. Investment and repayment of borrowed moneys have to come first. And yet Chia enjoyed virtually instant disposable income in vast quantities almost from the moment that Musa Aman started to endow him with extensive timber concessions.
The Chief Minister has yet to explain why he chose to endow the young and inexperienced Michael Chia with these concessions. He needs to do so, if his denials are to become convincing.
Millions In Michael Chia’s bank accounts were paid in by timber tycoons
All the evidence in fact points to one credible explanation, which was that money was pouring into Chia’s bank accounts from kickbacks. This evidence matches the testimony of numerous sources in the Sabah timber business.
To begin with we can demonstrate from bank statements in our possession that luxury goods for Chia were being paid for out of accounts that were also receiving payments from timber tycoons. We can also prove that these tycoons were linked to Chia’s own concessions in Sabah and to other concessions which were separately granted after 2003.
As we will go on to demonstrate, this very same Hong Kong UBS account controlled by Chia also received several major payments in 2006/2007 from a number of timber companies and made some interesting other out-payments.
The payers-in included the company Borion Enterprise Ltd, connected to a known Sarawak timber tycoon, and the out-payments included an enormous US$4million transfer to a ‘Richard Christopher’.
Chia can also be seen to have made a number of personal in-payments and withdrawals worth thousands of US dollars.
Our sources have confirmed that Richard Christopher refers to Richard Christopher Barnes, the solicitor arrested during the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation into timber corruption in Sabah and identified as the lawyer handling financial matters for Musa Aman (see picture above with friend Chia).
Questions for Musa
These statements represent just a fraction of the evidence we have in our possession, consisting of numerous similar transactions through Chia controlled bank accounts, involving a number of timber companies with concessions in Sabah.
The Chief Minister has yet to provide any answer to the information we published in an earlier report, which is that one of these, a closely related account Hong Kong UBS account, was making regular payments to Musa Aman’s sons in Australia.
Standing instruction to pay Musa’s son
We can now provide further documents showing yet more payments from Chia accounts to Musa’s family.
Back in 2005 an account in Chia’s own name, managed by HSBC Hong Kong, registered a regular monthly standing order payment for Musa’s son, Mohammed Hayssam Musa, who was studying in Perth.
At the same time we can see that this same account was also receiving huge payments, amounting to millions of US dollars from the company Borion Enterprise Ltd.
Both the Musa boys were, as we have already shown, accessing the same account to cover their expenses during education in Australia. If this was not a business relationship then Musa Aman needs to be clear about what kind of relationship he did have with Michael Chia.
More detail on Borion Enterprise Ltd – the Taib connection!
So what is the significance of the Hong Kong company, Borion Enterprise Ltd, which has been making such regular and enormous payments to Michael Chia?
Borion Enterprise Ltd, is part-owned by a Sarawak timber magnate Ngui Ing Chuan, a major shareholder of the Taib-linked company Ta Ann. Ngui also owns Borion Enterprise Sdn Bhd and Borion Shipping Sdn Bhd, both Malaysian companies based in Sarawak.
However, the major shareholder in the Hong Kong arm of the Borion Group is not Ngui, but another company called Silvermark Consultants Ltd.
In turn Silvermark Consultants Ltd is owned by the son of Sarawak’s Timber Tycoon and Taib crony, Ting Pek King! ”Borion came into Sabah flashing big money from the start”, one source related.
This begs the crucial question as to why the Ting Pek King family were paying large sums of money into Michael Chia’s bank accounts? Accounts that were being simultaneously used to fund Musa Aman’s boys in Australia.
Since Aman has come out to deny any associations with Chia or indeed any allegations of graft, can he please provide the fullest of explanations for this state of affairs?
Timber concessions related to Borion
Another major Sabah player linked to Ting Pek King is his cousin and known right hand man Simon Ling. Simon Ling has been deeply involved in Sabah timber concessions since the arrival of Musa Aman into office and he is also closely connected in business to Michael Chia.
According to insiders Ling has also taken over the running and management of many of the concessions supposedly awarded to the young and inexperienced Michael Chia.
This corroborates with official company information available for all to see. The company Top Merchant Sdn Bhd is the company that received the concessions to log Kuamat Forest. The main shareholder of that company is Chia’s mistress Yap Siaw Lin. However, the Director of Top Merchant Sd Bhd is none other than Simon Ling!
Insiders have confirmed that the payments from the Ting Pek King connected company Borion Enterprise Ltd into Chia’s accounts are indeed related to the timber concessions granted to Simon Ling by Yayasan Sabah and to Simon Ling’s management of Chia companies, of which he is the effective concession-holder.
Chia has corroborated Borion’s involvement in his businesses by acknowledging in court that the company has exclusive rights of purchase from timber logged by Rimba Kita and Rasanmewa, companies he claims to own.
Chia has come up with his own excuses for his relationship with Borion and the payments, which he describes as a ‘Trade Advance’ by a trusted business associate. However, such excuses do not explain the payments made to the Musa family or the millions sent on to Richard Christopher Barnes.
Insiders maintain that Chia’s web of bank accounts were merely a mechanism for processing kickbacks are further substantiated by numerous other transactions we have evidence of through the same accounts.
These involve companies linked to other timber tycoons also with concessions granted in Sabah, which we will also be revealing.
Angel Face Consultants
Meanwhile, we can now further reveal that informants have told the MACC that a BVI company Angel Face Consultants is owned by none other than Chief Minister Musa Aman and that it has received kickbacks through its Citibank Singapore account run by a close associate.
We will provide evidence that MACC and Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigators took these allegations seriously as we unravel further evidence. It raises further questions about another series of enormous out-payments from Michael Chia’s HSBC account.
In September 2005 the account’s hefty balance of US$8.5 million was cleared by two major withdrawals in one day in favour of Angel Face Consultancy. That is a lot of consultation in just one day!
Musa Aman has denied any business connection with Michael Chia, even though Chia was a prolific operator on the Sabah timber scene after 2004.
If he wished the Chief Minister could take immediate action to protect himself against all such allegations of graft and kickbacks. He could reform the system that gives him total personal and private control over the allocation of timber concessions in the State.
This is because the Sabah Chief Minister is also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan Sabah, which authorises timber licences over a million hectares of state forest land. Why?
Yayasan’s negotiations are held in private and the decisions it makes are unpublished and kept confidential. Why?
No arrangement could be better designed to allow a total abuse of power by the man, who controls both the Government and the country’s richest natural resource. So, why doesn’t Musa Aman reform it?