An international NGO is disappointed with the Swiss government, saying that it's sending out a wrong message with regard to its banking policy.
Looks like there's no quick solution to international calls for disclosures on Taib Mahmud's wealth, believed to be stashed or invested in other countries.
Swiss environmental and human rights campaigners were dismayed at the Swiss government's latest stand not to disclose its findings of its investigation into Chief Minister Taib Mahmud's secret bank accounts in Switzerland.
Yesterday, Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf refused, in Parliament, to disclose whether Taib had assets in Swiss banks, citing the country's banking secrecy laws.
Referring to an investigation launched earlier this year by Switzerland's Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), Widmer-Schlumpf said: "FINMA has no right to disclose any information of its findings to the public. FINMA will inform the directly affected persons only."
Her response infuriated campaigners at the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) who promptly shot back: "The message to all dictators in the world is basically: Bring your stolen money to Switzerland. As long as you are in power, no one will be able to find out about it nor touch it."
"How can it be that our authorities will inform a corrupt potentate but not the public on the findings of their investigations?" it noted in a statement.
Meanwhile a "disappointed" deputy speaker of the Switzerland Parliament, Maya Graf, who first raised the issue, said there was wide public interest in knowing if Taib, who allegedly has US$ 1.46 billion in domestic wealth, had assets in Swiss banks.
"I am disappointed that the Swiss government is hiding behind the Swiss banking secrecy and thus helping to promote corruption in countries with weak governments.
"There is no point in complaining about the destruction of the world's tropical rainforests as long as Western countries assist corrupt families like the Taibs to enrich themselves by cutting down the forests," she said in a statement.
Longer fight for BMF
BMF has been at the forefront of a campign to expose Taib's allegedly ill-gotten wealth which it claimed was amassed over the past 30 years through widespread deforestation and land grabs.
BMF's research has shown that Taib and his family have accumulated stakes in more than 400 companies in 25 countries and offshore jurisdictions, worth billions of dollars.
They disclosed that Taib family's stake in 14 large Malaysian companies alone is worth more than US$ 1.4 billion.
Last week, an international NGO coalition asked the Malaysian authorities to arrest and prosecute the Taib family for corruption, fraud and other charges.
Stating their call in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, they provided full details of properties worth US$ 1.46 billion said to be owned by Taib and his family members.
But the federal government has thus far declined to comment on the allegations against the Taibs although the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has admitted to receiving numerous reports, the latest of which they accepted yesterday.
But Taib on his part has brazenly declared that he has "no secret Swiss" account.
"Let me state categorically that I have no secret Swiss bank account, nor assets nor investments of any description. None whatsoever", " he declared in the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly during its latest sitting.
He has also declared that his family members had made their money abroad because they were "clever".
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