Money Logging by Lukas Straumann takes us on a circumventing journey of the timber trail that spans the continents around the globe. As a historian and fervent campaigner for the Bruno Manser Fund, the author has dilgently and methodically tracked the massive forest destruction that has scratched the face of earth. We are introduced to the many dramatis personae, corporates and financial institutions that are suspected to be the hands behind it all. History, if this is a subject that appeals to you, is what a part of this book tells. It speaks of how a state in Borneo evolved over time and why they should remain primitive and not industrialised. Very strange thinking but that is how an industrailised West wants of the woods of the East. So, we are also given lessons in geography on the landscape that has been purportedly manhandled and almost wiped out. The need for preservation is the underlying message.
BUT Money Logging is actually one long loud rant by a frustrated activist whose many reports to governments, members of parliament and financial institutions around the world have either been dismissed or ignored. Dismissed because of the lack of evidence, because of the unsubstantiated allegations, and because the author claims that the main character has immense political might over foreign governments, a European prince and even the FBI. It is hard to believe that Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud would have that sort of power and influence from remote Borneo. So is this book premised on fact or fiction? Or frustration?
Let’s examine extracts from the book and how it laments.
Lack of Evidence
Following questions addressed by the Bruno Manser Fund to the German government in 2011, BaFin (the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority) took a close look at Deutsche Bank’s relations with the Taib family. Its examination dealt with “compliance with the due diligence duties laid down in the anti-money-laundering law” and also “the internal security measures set up by the financial institute”. BaFin concluded that there were “no grounds” for action by the regulatory authorities.
Shahnaz Abdul Majid, sister of a famous Malaysian pop singer, embarked on her disclosure of everything she knew about the family of her ex-husband, Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib.
“My ex-husband has 111 personal bank accounts with balances totalling more than 700 million ringgits [210 million US dollars] in Canada, the USA, the Caribbean, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. He also owns properties in Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia, and scattered all around the world. He is a director of 112 firms and a shareholder in fifty businesses.”
In putting her case, Shahnaz was counselled by a shrewd Indian lawyer, Dr. Rafie Mohd Shafie, who, in examining his client before the court, obviously revelled in extracting the details of the Taib family assets. Shahnaz’s testimony also sent shock waves to Switzerland. However, her accusations could not be substantiated. An examination carried out by the office of the Swiss Attorney General in 2013 showed that only one of the Swiss banks mentioned by Taib’s daughter-in-law had had a business relationship with the Taib family. Their bank accounts had already been closed in 1999. Contrary to the Musa Aman case, the Swiss prosecutors did not open a criminal investigation and ordered not to proceed with the matter.”
It is unthinkable that the FBI did not know that its new Seattle headquarters belonged to the family of a corrupt Malaysian politician. There is no evidence, however, that this was a source of concern for any of the senior FBI personnel, although the Seattle FBI boasts on its website that one of its priorities is to “combat public corruption at all levels”.
There is another business connection between Deutsche Bank and the Taib family that has not yet been explained, owing to the lack of cooperation from Frankfurt.
These are just but some of the points highlighted by the author. It is indeed one book where accusations are hurled to the hilt, to a point that one can sense the immense frustrations from within the author. And the author desiring to be heard. And he justifies so by rolling a trail of suspicions and beliefs in the hope perhaps for whistle blowers to surface. It seems so paranoid driven.
Sherlock Holmes would have examined for the incriminating evidence. But none are really shown in the book. Money laundering was not evidenced by any bank transaction slip or report. Just whisper references of big bankers like UBS, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suise, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and others to capture our attention. This is how the book protects itself. It does not break the law with exposure of confidential banking information. So are the allegations for real? There are too many to the point where it beckons our good judgment to reason out and adjudicate.
Lawsuits on the horizon?
Aaah … What this book has however done dangerously, is opened itself to the many possible humongous law suits. The reviewer does not believe that Taib would go beyond his legal letters from Mishcon de Reya. Rather, the more powerful banks would, to protect their image and integrity. Plus the many others who have been dragged in and implicated to pad sizzle in this 300-page book. If indeed it is true that they have money spilling out of their ears, they are apt to hire the best Jewish lawyers around.
Or would the author declare this book a work of fiction?