Today’s confirmation by the Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland that it has opened a criminal investigation against the banking group UBS, over suspected money-laundering on behalf of Musa Aman, looks set to cause an awkward diplomatic upset for the UK.
After all, the royal couple Wills and Kate are right now packing their bags to give Musa a friendly visit!
Sarawak Report first exposed back in May the evidence that the Sabah Chief Minister has taken tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks for issuing licences to chop down what remains of Sabah’s rain forests.
And we have laid out damning details of the money laundering operation conducted by the Musa and his associates through UBS accounts in a number of articles.
Details of bank statements and of the official investigations by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission and also the Hong Kong authorities into the affair were made public in our series of exposes and the evidence was sent to Switzerland, where the Bruno Manser Fund requested the prosecution against UBS.
Yet, despite this mounting evidence, UK officials have refused to heed warnings against the planned visit to the state by the British heir to the throne and his new wife.
The visit is due to take place between September 11-19th, as part of a Royal Tour of the Commonwealth in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, marking her 60th year on the throne. They will also be visiting Singapore and the Solomon Islands.
To begin with the choice of Sabah might have seemed perfect publicity for the environment conscious Royal Family. After all the trip is being promoted as an “exotic visit to the Borneo Jungle”.
Just in the past few hours the British press has printed exciting details of plans to feature the Prince and his wife looking daring in lush forest canopies and cuddling up to cute baby orang-utans.
Given Musa’s energetic ‘greenwash’ PR of recent months, the objective has been to praise Musa for ‘slowing’ Sabah’s rate of deforestation, according to UK officials. They are accepting claims that he now wants to protect what is left of the jungle.
However, for months Sarawak Report has been warning the Royal Palace and the British Foreign Office against becoming associated with Musa Aman’s new campaign to present Sabah as an eco-friendly state, when in fact the Danum Valley Reserve which they will be visiting is a small oasis in one of the world’s worst environmental disaster zones and the Chief Minister is still selling concessions for kickbacks throughout the state.
Sarawak Report has also warned that proof of Musa Aman’s timber corruption is now in the public domain, showing how the destruction of Sabah’s jungle since the early 1990s has largely been driven by his own greed, first as the Head of Yayasan Sabah (The Sabah Foundation which is the trustee of its national forests) and then as the Chief Minister.
There is evidence that over US$90million dollars have been money-laundered through accounts associated with Aman and his key conspirators, a family friend Michael Chia and the Sabah lawyer Richard Christopher Barnes.
For these reasons Sarawak Report has repeatedly pleaded against the Royal Couple being encouraged to endorse a man whose criminality has ruined the jungle that they say they want to see protected!
This is a photo-opportunity that could go badly wrong.
Why endorse a suspected criminal?
Despite warnings from Sarawak Report just last week that Switzerland was about to launch its criminal prosecution over Musa’s money, the British High Commission is allowing this visit to proceed!
This opens the Royal Couple to charges of complete hypocrisy. They will of course be staying in pure luxury in the jungle resort in Danum Valley, while all around them millions of hectares of oil palm plantations are still being rolled out by their corrupted hosts.
The questionable judgement of such a visit is made even more severe by its timing, just as Malaysia approaches a crucial election.
What business has Britain to give such an endorsement to a notoriously corrupted and autocratic government, which has remained in power for longer than almost any other in the world?
After 50 years, who can still argue that BN has not cheated or bribed its way to its various ‘election successes’? Furthermore, evidence shows that more money is being stolen from the public in Malaysia and secreted out to foreign bank accounts, like Musa’s, than in practically any other country in the world.
Yet, it seems the royal advisors on this tour are preferring to present a lie rather than cancel the trip or upset their corrupted host, the Chief Minister of Sabah. They would rather the Royal Couple shake the hand through which a hundred million dollars of timber corruption money has passed than take a stand against the forces of corruption that are destroying Borneo!
Most of that money has been stolen from the poor people of the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, whose natural resources have been filched by their politicians, while they have been left in the deepest poverty.
At a time when Malaysia is at last waking up to these shocking truths and when the opposition parties are defying persecution and abuses against them to present for the first time some kind of real challenge to BN’s forces of oppression, is it right for Britain to prop them up with such a high profile visit by its as yet untainted young royal couple?
The cries in Malaysia and even in Musa’s own BN party in Sabah are now becoming deafening for his removal and his position is more precarious than ever.
How he will thank William and Kate, for stretching out their hands and offering him just the lifeline he needed with this visit and their silly praises for his greenwash PR about the ‘eco-friendly’ policies of Sabah.