Saturday, 23 March 2013

Sting video claim about Singapore is false

Video alleging corruption by Sarawak chief minister goes viral in Malaysia
By Magdalen Ng And Teo Cheng Wee, The Straits Times, 22 Mar 2013

A CONTROVERSIAL video alleging corruption on the part of the Sarawak chief minister and his family and that they hide their illicit gains in Singapore drew a strong response from the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Finance Ministry last night.

The 16-minute "sting video" which has been circulated widely online in Malaysia since it appeared on Monday, also alleges Singapore does not share financial information with Malaysia.

Calling that allegation false, the Singapore Government said Singapore has provided full information requested by Malaysia for tax purposes and the two countries have had a good working relationship on tax matters.

"The allegation is simply false," it said. "Contrary to what was claimed in the video, Singapore has to date provided fully the information requested by Malaysia for tax purposes."

In addition, it said Singapore has designated a wide range of crimes as predicate offences to money laundering - including corruption, bribery and fraud.

"Singapore therefore has been and remains able to provide mutual legal assistance to the fullest extent permitted under our laws where there are requests from Malaysia," it said in a statement.

The central bank and ministry were responding to queries about the video clip which alleges that Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, a senior leader of Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, was involved in corruption.

Made by London-based non-governmental organisation Global Witness, the video has attracted more than 300,000 YouTube views since it was posted on Monday.

Shot with a hidden camera, it alleges that Tan Sri Taib, 76, and his relatives have been selling the state's vast forest land for personal profit.

It also alleges that the money obtained is being "stolen and hidden overseas" with "a great deal of this money rumoured to flow through private bank accounts in Singapore".

The video shows cousins and associates of Mr Taib negotiating with a person posing as a foreign businessman, describing how they make profits selling land titles issued by Mr Taib.

A lawyer appears and tells the "investor" that he can buy the land titles tax-free by paying into an account in Singapore.

When the lawyer is asked if there is communication between Singapore and Malaysia, he says: "That's why we choose Singapore. The Singapore Government has a China Wall... a firewall. They will not tell the Malaysian government nothing."

The lawyer also calls Singapore the "new Switzerland".

Malaysian activists have called for an investigation into the claims.

But Mr Taib, who is not in the video, has denied the allegations. He dismissed the clip as an attempt to frame him.

"I think it's a bit naughty of them," he said in a separate online clip. "They're using their big power to blacken my name.

"Could it not be that someone tried to promote themselves to become an agent to get favours from me?" he said, referring to the people who had dropped his name to the "investor".

He added that he had been "fighting at one time" with his uncle - the father of the cousins featured in the video. "That cousin cannot be my most trusted."

The video comes just as Mr Taib is set to lead BN's general election campaign in Sarawak.

A state regarded by the ruling coalition as one of its "safe deposits", Sarawak has been led by Mr Taib since 1981.

But he has been under attack in recent years from opposition politicians, who have accused him of corruption and nepotism.

While Mr Taib has denied the allegations, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission began an investigation two years ago that is ongoing. The commission said it will "act accordingly" in response to the new developments, without giving details.


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