March 22, 2013
Global Witness rebuts Sibu Lawyer Huang with release of a new video
Global Witness, the international NGO behind the release of alleged video evidence on abuse of logging licences by the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud released another video today to rebut the claim of a lawyer implicated in the initial video.
Sibu lawyer Huang Lung Ong had told The Malay Mail on Wednesday that he was trapped by the undercover investigator sent by Global Witness who posed as a foreign investor, claiming that their conversation was merely “coffeeshop” talk.
“I was trapped. I was consulted on legal matters regarding land… Why should I speak about the chief minister?
“I may have uttered some words out of frustration as he (the investigator) kept on asking me many questions. I was pressured,” the partner of law firm Huang & Co was quoted saying.
However, the latest three-minute edited video showed Huang apparently introducing Billion Venture Sdn Bhd, the company owned by prominent Sarawak timber tycoon Hii Yii Peng, to the investigator in a cafetaria.
“This one belongs to my relative. He is about 78-years-old. He is willing to sell it.
“At the moment the China group is looking at these. You know Chinese… (inaudible) So, still available. We call it Licence for Planted Forest,” he says slowly, while showing documents to the investigator.
“Issuing in 2000… the licence number… the company name is Billion Venture Sdn Bhd… It was issued in 2002, expiry date 2062…” he continues.
The Hii family have extensive and enduring commercial interests with Taib and his immediate family in sectors including joint-ventures and common shareholdings in the palm oil, timber and hospitality industries.
Billion Venture has been issued by the Sarawak state government a 60-year licence for oil palm and commercial tree plantations covering an area of 32,000 hectares of natural forest in Limbang district, bordering the Gunung Mulu National Park.
In the second part of the newly-released video clip (below), believed to be secretly filmed in a hotel room, Huang answers the investigator’s questions on the mechanism to purchase Billion Venture.
“The permit can be overseas or Sarawak, up to you…
“Purchase(r) I believe that like you coming here, as a foreigner, I believe that you should not hold 100 percent, 70 is the most, to keep him (Hii) there.
“He will contribute the money proportionally and then he will help you in our governmental businesses, and with the local people, if there is any… is it easier, you will not get into problems…,” he explains.
Video shows the contrary
Huang also assures that Taib, as the state minister for resource planning and environment, will give the approval for the ‘foreign investor’ to own 70 percent of the company’s share.
The video shows the contrary to Huang’s claim that he was merely consulted by the “Englishman” who introduced himself as Andy Stewart on matters regarding Malaysian land laws.
At no point was Huang seen as acting “under pressure” in the video – as claimed by the man. He had also said on Wednesday that the “unfair” allegation has tarnished his reputation, and that he is considering legal action against Global Witness.
In the initial video released by Global Witness on Tuesday, Huang states that Hii is his uncle and that the tycoon is very close to Taib. Huang also divulges that Hii would be expected to pay Taib a kickback of approximately 10 percent of the licence value in return for the directive from Taib’s ministry to issue the logging licence.
Huang is one of the two lawyers who were implicated in the video. The other lawyer is Alvin Chong Chee Vun of Alvin Chong & Partners, Kuching, who has represented the Sarawak government, government-linked companies and prominent public listed companies with close links to Taib’s family.
Allegedly engaged by Taib’s cousins to sell another piece of land to the ‘foreign investor’, Chong was caught in the video proposing mechanisms to evade tax and circumvent the government’s requirement of 51 percent local shareholding ownership.
Chong’s firm has dismissed the allegations and denied that Chong had acted on behalf of Taib’s cousins. Taib has also denied the allegations on Wednesday, claiming that the NGO is using its “big power to blacken his name”.
In another related development, the Advocates’ Association of Sarawak has officially referred Chong and Huang to the inquiry committee this afternoon.