Sabah Chief Minister, Musa Aman, branded Sarawak Report maliciously motivated liars and implied we were master forgers, after we revealed financial documents showing that his nominee, Michael Chia, had laundered nearly a hundred million US dollars of timber kickbacks on his behalf.
However, we now challenge him to name the Swiss bank UBS AG liars as well, because their submissions to a current court case in Singapore confirm our evidence!
In a sworn statement UBS AG declares that money was indeed paid to Musa Aman’s own sons from a series of accounts that had received huge sums from logging concerns.
The bank names the very accounts and payments that we referred to in our original reports, proving that the documents in our possession are not forgeries. Rather they are genuine bank statements.
Michael Chia was the front man
Chia Tien Foh (Michael Chia) gives sworn testimony in the same Singapore court case, which also confirms our reports that he was Musa’s front man for this entire money-laundering operation.
Chia, who was arrested trying to smuggle SG$16million out of Hong Kong in 2008, alleges before the court that he was the real controller of these accounts, even though they were held in the name of a so-called nominee.
This claim confirms his direct financial links to Musa Aman – links that the Chief Minister has been desperately attempting to deny:
“ 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]
As we have detailed in previous exposes, an investigation by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against
Corruption (ICAC) has already concluded that the money from this web of UBS AG bank accounts was eventually channelled via Musa Aman’s lawyer, Richard Christopher Barnes, into a master account in Zurich, held in the name of Musa Aman himself.
According to the ICAC’s own chart (below) the operation contains the hallmarks of a classic money-laundering exercise.
The millions of dollars were passing through layers of ownership, designed to conceal the real beneficiary of the kickbacks paid for logging concessions handed out by Yayasan Sabah.
We can confirm that beneficiary was Musa Aman, the man who makes the ultimate decision over who gets those concessions, in his capacity as Chairman of Yayasan’s Board of Trustees.
When conspirators fall out …
The Singapore case, which should prove the undoing of Musa and also cause huge problems and embarrassment for UBS Bank, has been launched by a former associate of Chia.
The timber trader, who was the registered owner of a number of these suspect accounts, complains that he was illegitimately ignored when UBS followed instructions to empty two of them and transfer the money directly into another account in the name of Michael Chia’s wife.
The trader is demanding compensation from UBS AG and from Chia’s wife Yap Loo Mien, who received all the proceeds from the Hong Kong accounts of two British Virgin Island (BVI) companies, Blisstop Corporation and Zenique Investments Ltd, which were emptied after Chia’s arrest by the Hong Kong police.
Some $USD2 million were in the bank accounts at the time and statements in our possession show that some $USD15 million had been channelled through them in the course of two years.
Much of that money had already been transferred directly into the accounts of a BVI company controlled directly by Michael Chia himself, called CTF International Ltd (standing for Chia Tien Foh) and to another BVI company called Angel Face Consultancy, which is known to belong to another known key nominee of Musa Aman.
According to the chart drawn up by Hong Kong’s ICAC, the money from CTF International Ltd can then be traced flowing into another UBS AG account (A/C 231117) run by the lawyer Christopher Barnes.
This account was specifically held in trust for Musa Aman and the money from it was being transferred directly into Musa’s Zurich account N/A21010109!
Piggy-bank for Musa’s boys!
However, in the meantime, bank statements show that Musa’s two sons (who were studying in Australia) were able to draw on the Zenique Investments Ltd account for their own needs.
We have already demonstrated in earlier reports that they were drawing on other accounts run by Chia and his associates as part of the same money-laundering operation.
Payments to Mohd Daud Tampokong came out of same accounts!
Damningly, another fat payment was also debited from the Zenique Investments Ltd account in favour of a key Yayasan employee, who has been identified as interface between the Board of Trustees and timber traders, Mohd Daud Tampokong.
Tampokong, who has been cited in a separate prosecution as the man who informed timber traders that permissions for Yayasan licences must be negotiated through “middleman” Michael Chia, received US$85,000!
Sabah timber tycoon, Agus Hassan, sparked the prosecution after he denounced Michael Chia for using his position as “middle man” at Yayasan Sabah to blackmail extra kickbacks for himself on top of the sweeteners that have to be paid to Musa Aman himself to get logging licences.
A letter from Hassan, the owner of the logging company Peluamas, now forms part of the prosecution case. It makes clear that Tampokong had told Hassan that he needed to negotiate with Chia as the “middleman” for Yayasan. Could this be how he earned the $85,000USD?
That case continues, however this latest court action against UBS AG and Mrs Chia in Singapore takes the evidence still further in implicating Musa Aman directly. In the course of fighting with each other, the former conspirators and UBS AG bank have released evidence that lets the cat out the bag about what was really going on.
“Deposit for logging concession”
For example, a number of the transfers that were made into the Zenique account give the game away quite clearly. The credits are labelled by the payee, who is a major Sabah timber tycoon, as “Deposit for logging concession”!
As the Chairman of Yayasan Sabah, the body that issues logging concessions in the state, Musa Aman is going to have to publicly explain, immediately, how it was that millions of dollars for “logging concessions” were being paid to a shady BVI company, operated by two Sabah timber merchants, including Michael Chia who was known to be extremely close to him.
Likewise, he must explain why this network of Chia-controlled accounts were paying out money to Musa’s sons and their Guardian, Imbarine bin Bujang.
The payments to Musa’s sons
It is UBS’s testimony regarding these payments to Musa’s sons that give Musa the hardest questions to answer.
The bank has been trying (unwisely) to defend its actions in clearing out the two BVI company accounts. They did so, they claim, merely on the evidence of a telephone call and then a scribbled note, supposedly made by the formal beneficiary of the accounts.
However that trader denies he made the call or wrote the note. Normally authorisations for such payments would always backed up by a signed fax and by a formal recorded telephone call.
Nevertheless, to back its case, the bank has produced evidence as part of its sworn statements, claiming that a number of other payments were made from this network of accounts in a similar way. The bank cites transfers to Musa Aman’s sons as examples of such payments!
This admission backs the numerous bank statements in our possession, which also demonstrate that several payments were made from accounts controlled by Chia to Musa’s sons, who were studying in Australia and it proves that our documents are not forgeries (see our previous coverage under Sabah Scandal)
The UBS AG bank confirmation of these payments nails the lie that Musa had nothing to do with the bank accounts being managed by Chia. In fact his sons were using them as a regular piggy bank to pay for their expenses!
It leaves only one inevitable conclusion, which is that the ultimate beneficiary of these BVI companies and all the other accounts linked to Michael Chia, was Musa Aman himself.
After all, it is Musa Aman, the Chief Minister of Sabah and Chairman of Yayasan, who possesses the power to grant logging concessions in the state. It is Musa Aman who possesses the power to name Michael Chia as the “middleman”. So, why would anyone pay a “deposit for logging concession” to anyone else?
Chia testimony shows how nominees were operating
The Chia family have a long association with the Chief Minister, despite Musa Aman’s recent statements denying any business connections. Chia’s father has received lucrative barging monopolies under Musa’s management and the son has received logging concessions. Michael Chia has let it be widely known that Musa refers to him as his ‘adopted son’.
However, the testimony of Michael Chia and his wife makes the situation all the worse for Musa in this case.
While UBS AG bank are still hanging on to the defence that they made the transfers into Yap Loo Mien’s accounts, because they were under the impression they had received a verbal instruction from the named account holder, Chia together with his wife are telling a conflicting story.
In their own sworn statements to the court Chia and his wife claim that they were the rightful beneficial owner of these companies and accounts all along and that the named account holder was merely a nominee!
Chia’ss assertion is that UBS emptied the accounts on his instructions, because the bank knew that he was the real man in charge and that the registered owner was just a front! His wife in her testimony backs up this version of events, along with another business partner. Sabah timber trader Chong Siak Nyen, further undermining UBS AG’s case before the court.
Were UBS complicit ?
Such claims by Chia and his wife and partner Chong Siak Nyen (recipient of timber concessions from Yayasan Sabah) leave the finger pointing dangerously at the major Swiss bank UBS AG.
The bank is claiming that it moved the money from the accounts only because it believed it had verbal instructions to do so from the official, registered owner of the accounts.
However, Chia says the instruction came from him, as the secret owner of the account.
If UBS AG knew Chia was the real owner of the account, then they were sanctioning a highly irregular arrangement for an individual known to have close links to a politically exposed person, Musa Aman. Not only that, regular payments were being made from these accounts to Musa Aman’s sons by the bank’s own admission.
Under Swiss law banks should be extremely wary of running high value accounts linked to politically exposed persons, who have no visible legitimate means for getting the money. But, instead of investigating their role in possible money-laundering, the bank appears to have chosen to defend its role and to deny possible wrong doing in this case.
This, despite the fact that the ICAC investigation, backed up by documents in our possession, shows that Musa Aman was receiving unaccountable millions into his UBS AG Zurich bank account, through a network of UBS AG managed accounts and companies set up by UBS AG, that benefitted from payments for “logging concessions” worth millions of dollars.
What UBS knew
The evidence submitted to the Singapore court case clearly indicates that the UBS ‘wealth management advisor’, Denis Chua, who handled all these accounts linked to Chia, Barnes and Musa knew exactly what was going on.
Documents and emails placed before the court confirm our evidence that it was Chua who did all the administrative work in setting up the two BVI companies, Zenique and Blisstop and then opened their Hong Kong bank accounts.
UBS AG staff member Denis Chua was also involved in every ‘layer’ of the money-laundering network and he clearly understood the key role played by Michael Chia as Musa’s pivotal nominee.
Indeed papers show that Michael Chia was personally present at the meeting with Chua to set up the two Hong Kong bank accounts for Zenique and Blisstop in somebody else’s name. Chua also managed the account for CTF International, owned by Chia, where most of this money flowed. And he managed teh lawyer Richard Barnes’ account, into which the money flowed from CTF International.
Sarawak Report therefore requests that UBS AG acknowledge whether the letter identified by Hong Kong’s ICAC, which stated that the money in Barnes’ account was “held in trust for Musa Aman” was also drawn up by their own employee, Denis Chua?
Chua’s own emails, submitted to the court, also provide devastating evidence supporting Michael Chia’s crooked contentions that he was the secret controller of the accounts.
During a series of email discussions between Chua and UBS AG staff about the closre of the accounts, Chua made this damning satement:
“The client has asked to transfer the money to his wife’s account. The money will be staying within the bank”
This is clear evidence that Chua, the UBS AG wealth management advisor in charge of the account, regarded Chia as the real ‘client’. Because it was to Chia’s wife that the money went!
This crucial email fatally undermines UBS AG’s argument that it was instructed by the named account-holder all along. It is now that named account-holder who is suing UBS AG for accepting an instruction from a 3rd party and suing Yap Loo Mien for taking the cash!
Case to answer UBS and Musa Aman
How is UBS AG to explain such evidence and how is Musa Aman going to explain the evidence produced by UBS confirming our own earlier evidence that his children were receiving money from bank accounts managed by his ‘adopted son’, Michael Chia?
Musa will also have to explain why “deposits for logging concessions” were being paid into these very accounts from which his sons were receiving regular payments.
Attorney General caught up in the cover-up
And it is not only Musa who must speak out step down. The Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patail, must now act and bring charges against Musa Aman, or step aside as well.
He cannot legitimately ignore such compelling evidence of Musa’s involvement in timber kickback accounts, verified by Switzerland’s largest bank.
Abdul Gani Patail has already been heavily criticised for refusing to act on this case. The MACC took full statements from Chia, Barnes and many others, when they originally investigated the case after Chia’s arrest in Hong Kong. They worked closely with the Hong Kong authorities and their investigations are believed to have resulted in a recommendation that no less than 40 criminal charges should be pressed against the Chief Minister. So far Patail has refused to allow the case to be prosecuted.
The fact that Musa is his family relative and that both Musa and his brother, Anifah Aman, the Foreign Minister, are key BN players, makes it all the more vital that the Attorney General shows himself not to be biased in their favour.
Only the most corrupted and criminal regime could continue to attempt to ignore the weight of evidence now, sitting so squarely in the public arena. Unless of course, UBS bank is to be added to the growing list of ‘liars’, who are pointing the finger at Sabah’s Chief Minister, the man who has been responsible for a shocking acceleration of deforestation in the State since snatching office in 2003.