A statement from the Swiss Attorney General’s office, published today in a national newspaper, has added further dramatic proof to our evidence that Sabah’s Chief Minister, Musa Aman, has been under investigation over timber kickbacks worth at least US$90million.
The Zurich-based Sunday weekly, Sonntagszeitung, was following up on our reports that the Hong Kong authorities had traced millions of dollars, flowing from companies linked to Sabah timber concessions into a UBS Zurich bank account in the name of Musa Aman himself.
Sonntagszeitung first challenged UBS, the Swiss bank which had allegedly managed the transactions through a complex web of bank accounts, controlled by two of the Chief Minister’s close associates, the timber trader Michael Chia and Sabah solicitor Richard Christopher Barnes.
The bank has so far declined to comment.
Statement from the Swiss Attorney General’s Office confirms the investigation!
However, the newspaper did receive crucial confirmation of the investigation from Switzerland’s legal enforcement agency, the Attorney General’s Office.
Journalists posed a carefully worded question, which mentioned Musa Aman by name, highlighted his position and specified the exact sum of US$90million that the Hong Kong authorities were believed to be investigating.
They asked whether the Swiss authorities had been approached by Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to assist in providing information about the case in the context of these key facts:
Question: “The Malaysian politician Musa Aman, Minister of the State of Sabah, is at the centre of a corruption case in Malaysia and Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s anti corruption authority has compiled a report on the case. It is alleged that, through nominees, Aman has received a total of 90 million US dollars of corruption payments from logging companies in return for granting logging concessions. Allegedly, these funds have been laundered through a network of companies and deposited on UBS accounts in Hong Kong and Zurich. Lawyer Richard Christopher Barnes and businessman Chia Tien Foh have been mentioned as nominees. These occurrences date back to the years 2006 to 2008.
My question is the following one: Has the Office of the Attorney General led an investigation for suspected money-laundering or other criminal offences in this context?“ [Translation of the question submitted to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, by the Zurich-based Sunday weekly, Sonntagszeitung, 20th April 2012]
It is the reply of the Attorney General’s Office to this question that clearly confirms the investigation into Musa Aman for suspected money-laundering:
Statement: “The Office of the Attorney General has in this context provided legal assistance. The result of the legal assistance enforcement has been forwarded to the Federal Office of Justice on 29th March 2012 for transmission to the requesting authorities in Hong Kong.
The Office of the Attorney General does not inform on the content or the enforcement of the legal assistance request. As legal assistance enforcement authority, we generally do not answer questions on investigations led abroad. The authority on information lies with the foreign criminal prosecutors in charge.“[Translation of reply by Jacqueline Bühlmann, spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General 20th April 2012]
“In this context”!
It is the crucial acknowledgement of the context of the investigation, as one focusing on the Chief Minister himself for suspected money-laundering, in collaboration with Michael Chia and Richard Christopher Barnes, that will make it most difficult now for Musa Aman to continue to shrug off this matter, as if it was mere invention.
Over the past days Aman and his supporters have operated a strategy of total denial, issuing statements accusing Sarawak Report of producing made up stories, false evidence and forged documents.
They have maintained this stance, even though neither UBS nor the Hong Kong and Malay authorities have been prepared to take the obvious step of disowning our material, which they clearly would have done if the documents were false.
Now Musa Aman will clearly be obliged to make a further statement to explain his position in the face of this latest development. Is he going to claim that the Swiss prosecutor is also telling lies? Or will he claim that it is the Swiss National Newspaper that has lied about what the prosecutor has said?
He will find such tactics hard, because a separate statement given to Sonntagszeitung by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice has also confirmed that it facilitated the international transfer of the documents provided by the Office of the Attorney General to Hong Kong:
Statement: “I can add that, on 31st March 2011, the Federal Office of Justice transmitted the legal assistance files, as collected by the Office of the Attorney General, to the requesting authority in Hong Kong.” [Translation of statement by Folco Galli, Head of Information of the Swiss Federal Office of Justice, 20th April 2012]
Time for “the Hong Kong authorities to provide details”
In response to these crucial developments the Swiss NGO the Bruno Manser Fund has now issued its own challenge to the Hong Kong authorities to provide further details on the investigation.
Given that the Swiss authorities have indicated that the authority on the case lies with the initiating agency, BMF has requested a full disclosure from the ICAC in its press release today.
And the NGO also signals that it will be calling for a further investigation of the role of the Swiss bank UBS in the whole affair:
“The Bruno Manser Fund asks the Hong Kong authorities to provide details on the results of its investigations, as this is a question of highest public interest at the international level. The Bruno Manser Fund strongly criticizes UBS for allowing timber kickbacks to be laundered through its accounts and is currently examining if the bank’s conduct includes legal offences under Swiss law” [BMF press release, 20/04/12]
More evidence in our dossier on Musa Aman
Meanwhile, Sarawak Report plans to continue the release of further damning documents from its dossier on this case over coming days.
We will also continue to ask why the Malaysian Attorney General, Abdul Gani Patail and Prime Minister Najib Razak have both steadfastly blocked the prosecution of this case against their key political ally the Chief Minister of Sabah?
While the Swiss authorities have cooperated in the investigation, the Malaysians have not.
Click here for English translation of the original Swiss article below: