Sarawak top lawyer, Alvin Chong, handily detailed his favourite tips for evading tax and the law on camera the other day.
He thought he was briefing a prospective client, who turned out to be an investigative reporter.
Chong’s practices are known to be widespread in Sarawak, especially using “nominees” to hide the real identities of the owners of companies and concessions handed out by Taib.
The prosperous lawyer explained that he always looks for nominees from what he described as “the lowest rank we can find, in a remote area”. A person who “will not be distracted by clever advisors”.
He meant poor people, whom he could cheat and exploit and whom investigators would find hard to trace. Alvin Chong said:
“The local law says that the local shareholders have to declare that they are not holding the shares on trust [as a nominee]… What I normally do (I will tell you some trade secrets as such), we find some guys who are villagers, sign them up for all this stuff – you can’t even reach them, they wouldn’t know how to find a lawyer would they? Its cheap, its really cheap… it will never surface and the nominee is not going to keep a shred of paper. Can you imagine a villager comes to town and you say “I am giving you 10,000 bucks”. My God! he’s going to go back to the village, you know, he will be the one-eyed man who’s king in the land of the blind you know” [Alvin Chong, Inside Malaysia’s Shadow State]
When the ‘buyer’ mused that Alvin’s plan seemed “well-thought through”, the lawyer jumped in to confirm:
“Oh it is, I put it to use many times!”
Other significant clients include top construction firm Hock Seng Lee
After such scandalous admissions and more about his deliberate tax evading techniques, Chong’s work as a high-profile lawyer in Sarawak should become subject to immediate scrutiny. This is especially because of his raft of high-profile and government clients in the State.
These include the Land & Survey Department, headed by Taib Mahmud; Naim Cendara, Sarawak Plantations and Dayang Enterprise Holdings, all linked to Taib through his cousin and known proxy Hamed Sepawi; and Sarawak Cable, which is substantially owned Taib’s son Abu Bekir and has received vast contracts from the SCORE hydro-electric programme.
Moreover, we would like to direct the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (which has now raided Mr Chong’s offices) towards another of his key clients Hock Seng Lee (HSL).
This giant construction company is also famously linked and connected to Taib Mahmud’s state government as the recipient of numerous public contracts, either directly or indirectly through companies owned by Taib’s family.
At the end of 2011 HSL was boasting a portfolio of RM2billion in public contracts and the legal advisor in all this activity is none other than Alvin Chong.
Ties to Taib
Given what we now have heard Chong say about his ‘tricks of the trade’ the MACC would do well to investigate some of the more mysterious people and companies linked to Hock Seng Lee’s public contracts to see if they are in fact nominees as has been long suspected.
If so, who are behind these nominees and the previously unheard of companies that seem to have put themselves between the government and vast contracts to Hock Seng Lee, creaming off millions of ringgit in the process?
Some of the intermediary companies have already been exposed by Sarawak Report as belonging to Taib’s family members. Consider for example the new Kuching sewerage system.
This multi-million ringgit project was originally handed to a company called Kumpulan Construction run by Raziah Mahmud, Taib’s own sister, her husband Robert Geneid and another sister Zaleha Mahmud.
Insiders say Kumpulan construction “doesn’t even own a wheelbarrow”, so no surprise that Raziah immediately sub-contracted the project to HSL, who obligingly allowed her and a co-contractor to keep a RM78million cut of the public money set aside for the work.
When just a few days ago, a man died after his car plunged through flimsy barriers into a deep hole they were digging, some were prompted to ask if those millions might not have been better spent on health and safety measures than Raziah’s ‘facilitation fee’?
We can reveal this pattern has been repeated with numerous contracts involving companies run by Raziah. At the time of the Sarawak state election in March 2011 another company KP Mukah Development Sdn Bhd opened its doors for business, for example.
Taib has shares himself in companies receiving state contracts
The Directors of KP Mukah Development are Robert and Raziah Geneid along with Raziah’s young son Ewan Abas. The 100% shareholder is another family company Kumpulan Parabena.
Kumpulan Parabena has received vast state contracts over the years and one of the big shareholders is none other than Raziah’s brother the Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud himself!
KP Mukah Development just happened to be awarded “concessionaire” for a mouth watering contract to build a new technology college in Mukah, which they passed on to HSL for RM291million. The immediate question is why was the contract not directly handed to HSL?
Perhaps the lawyer Alvin Chong could enlighten us?
We come back to the matter of a number of other mysterious companies which have passed on contracts to HSL and which appear to be run by nominees.
Given that nominees are a speciality of Alvin Chong (according to his own admissions in the film) Sarawak Report require that Hock Seng Lee should immediately reassure the public as to the identity of some of the extremely obscure people who appear to have been the Directors of companies involved in major public contracts negotiated by their company whose lawyer is Alvin Chong.
Companies which have been inexplicably involved multi-million ringgit public contracts eventually handed on to HSL, include Dwimula Sdn Bhd, Penbinaan Nomisual Sdn Bhd, PN Construction Sdn Bhd, AF Construction Sdn Bhd and Matrik Bestari Sdn Bhd.
Who is behind these companies and what do they do?
Connections between Penbinaan Nomisual, Dwimula Sdn Bhd, Matrik Bestari and Raziah and Taib’s Kumpulan Parabena!
We can reveal worrying facts. Penbinaan Nomisual, which appears to have no building activity, has nevertheless received quite enormous contracts from the state.
The Construction Industry Development Board website (which was recently and disgracefully been closed down in the wake of our numerous corruption exposes) revealed the company received millions of ringgit in public jobs, including one of RM131,500,000 to build 10,000 units of housing in Mukah.
Yet announcements from HSL soon made clear that the actual job was taken on 3 months later by them for a considerably reduced sum of RM125,745,922.
This leaves us to wonder what Penbinaan Nomisual did with the missing RM5,754,078?
Insiders have told Sarawak Report that the original contract had in fact gone to Kumpulan Parabena Sdn Bhd, owned by Raziah and her brother Taib Mahmud and other family members, but the move was considered too obvious on this occasion.
These insiders tell us the contract was therefore handed to Penbinaan Nomisual before being “sub-contracted” at the lesser sum to HSL.
Given that the lawyer in the matter, Alvin Chong, has admitted he gets up to tricks, the public has a right to hear the full story about what happened to this public money.
In particular, who is Malaysiawati Binti Tazen, the registered Director and “person in charge” of this company, which has received so much public money? And who are the other Directors? Could they be the sort of ‘low’ people that Alvin Chong has admitted to using to disguise the real ownership of companies?
Sarawak report has been unable to account for Zaleha bin Bujang, who lives in a Kampong address without a door number in a rural area (just the sort of place Alvin Chong likes to look for his nominees).*
However, Malaysiawati is interestingly connected to another company which has also received major state contracts and passed them on in the same fashion to HSL. This company is Dwimula Sdn Bhd and it used to occupy the same business address in Pending Point in Kuching.
In 2009 HSL was ‘pleased to announce‘ that it had received the major Sibu flood mitigation project paid for by the public at a total of RM137,151,089.00. However, the announcement shows that the project was given to them as part of a consortium with both Dwimula Sdn Bhd and Pembinaan Nomisuel.
But the two companies, which held a 15% share of the whopping contract not only share the same business address, their key directors share the same home address.
The main Director and shareholder of Dwimula Sdn Bhd, one Jamali bin Abdullah, shares a home with Malaysiawati binti Tazen of Pembinaan Nomisuel. According to company documents, they live together at 498 Jalan Fatingah, Kuching and have acknowledged on Facebook and such social sites that they are indeed man and wife.
Malaysiawati seems to think she is merely a business development manager in her company.
Perhaps this is because Alvin Chong decided not to tell her that she is also a Director and major shareholder? This needs clearing up since such tricks of the trade were what the lawyer was boasting of.
Unfortunately for this ‘big time couple in the construction world’ it is also a serious breaking of the rules to have a married couple registered as the recipient of two separate licences from the CIDB. This is another issue that requires immediate attention from HSL, the MACC and the government which was so remiss as to award such a strange and unusual consortium with the huge public contract for defending Sibu against floods.
Even more questions
So, it is depressing that Malasiawati (who is probably extremely nice) pops up in yet another company associated with HSL’s burgeoning contracts with the government.
Matrik Bestari was a company that received a nice 10% of a project given to HSL to develop the ‘technology park’ at Samarahan for a whopping RM72.5million, paid partly in money and partly in land. Malaysiawati is the Director and key shareholder, along with another unknown person.
And, sadly for all the poor people of Sarawak who deserve open, honest and transparent government the story goes on.
Zaleha bin Bujang (see above) also pops up again as a director and shareholder of another odd company that appears to have interfaced between HSL and some major government contracts, the so-called PN Construction Sdn Bhd. Her fellow director in yet a THIRD company is, of course, Malaysiawati binti Tazen.
Doesn’t this all seem a little mean and small time for public contracts worth millions, paid for by the tax payer? And what did Alvin Chong think he was up to letting such odd arrangements go unaccounted for at Hock Seng Lee?
PN Construction is such a grand company that it received the contracts from the government directly it seems. Then it contracted them to HSL, without even bothering with such things as ‘joint ventures’. These major sub-contracts to HSL included a further stage of the Sibu flood mitigation project for RM45.7million and the construction of a secondary school in Senibong.
Again, sadly this multiple ownership of government approved construction companies breaks the rules.
There are other companies that have also sub-contracted to HSL in a similar way. By this stage the questions are beginning to outlast readers’ patience.
We therefore require that the MACC scrutinise HSL’s public contracts and the millions that have been creamed off them as one of the priorities in their investigation of Taib’s pet lawyer, Alvin Chong.
We require that explanations as to why millions of ringgit of public contracts were passed through the hands of obscure individuals, after which several millions appear to have disappeared?
This is not least because we particularly note that a large chunk of the recent billions of ringgit in public contracts that have gone to HSL have been in the area of Tanjung Manis, currently being logged and then developed into a so-called ‘Halal Food Hub’ by the very same cousins of Taib Mahmud who were exposed as Alvin Chong’s clients in the Global Witness expose.
MP Norah Abdul Rahman is running for re-election in the area, which she also controls as the Chief Executive of the Halah Hub cluster of companies, all supported by the state. Who does this benefit?
We accept that the sums concerned are not of the magnitude of the hundreds of millions that have disappeared in defence contracts into the hands of companies run by nominees of the current Prime Minister Najib Razak (the fish rots from the head).
But, given that the MACC specialises in looking for small scale corruption and ignoring the big fish, maybe HSL is where they might like to concentrate on for now?
* [We at one point mistook Zaleha for the sister of Taib, who of course does own considerable shares in companies which have received state contracts, but not this one. We swiftly retracted the error in 2010].