PETALING JAYA : Most people can only dream of owning a mansion, but Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud got one of his for just one US dollar, according to Sarawak Report, a website that has been carrying apparently well-researched reports about the Taib family’s wealth.
The property, located on Boylston Avenue in Seattle, is currently valued at US$6.8 million, equivalent to about RM21 million.
Sarawak Report alleged that it was a gift to Taib from a company owned by Yaw Teck Seng, the founder of Sarawak timber giant Samling Global, which hit the news recently when it was excluded from Norway’s state pension fund for unethical conduct.
Taib is also said to be the owner of another residence, valued at US$ 2.8 million (RM8.65 million), in the same city. Seattle, the capital of Washington, is one of the most expensive cities in the United States.
The two pieces of property are apparently under the care of W.A. Everett and W.A. Boylston, two California-based companies established on the same day—Sept 5, 1991—as subsidiaries of CSY Investments.
Sarawak Report claimed that CSY stood for Chee Siew Yaw, a son of Yaw Teck Seng, founder of Samling.
Samling, which controls more than 1.4 million hectares of timber concessions in Sarawak, is one of Malaysia's largest timber companies. Taib, who holds the portfolio of State Planning and Resource Management Minister, is the ultimate decision maker when it comes to issuing timber and plantation concessions.
The new allegations have strengthened the impression that Seattle is one of the Taib family’s favourite cities. The city’s Abraham Lincoln Building, which houses a division headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, is said to be co-owned by the Chief Minister’s son, Kota Samarahan MP Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, and son-in-law, Sean Murray.
Despite these allegations, Samling has adamantly denied that it had anything to do with the mansions in question.
“Samling is a publicly listed company in Hong Kong,” a spokesman for the company said. “We have no investments in US property.”
The company has also denied having any business relationship with Taib.
Even so, the Chief Minister has defended the company’s integrity. Following the Norwegian rebuff, the Borneo Post quoted Taib as saying that Samling was a “responsible company”.