KUCHING: In the latest twist following the HSBC scandal, Canada’s largest insurance and finance provider Manulife Financial seems to have landed itself in a mess over its ‘unusual’ mortgage transactions with the Taib clan.
Manulife president and CEO Donald A. Guloien will on Thursday have to explain to company shareholders why it provided six ‘unusual’ mortgages totalling Canadian $146 million (RM438 mil) to Sakto.
Sakto Corporation, a real estate group, was founded in 1983 by Taib Mahmud’s brother, Onn Mahmud. It is currently managed by the former Sarawak Chief Minister’s daughter, Jamilah Taib, and her Canadian husband Sean Murray.
The long-term mortgages were arranged in 2003 and are secured by three office and residential buildings in Ottawa, known as the Preston Square development.
But what is unusual and intriguing is the terms of the mortgage.
According to Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), for every property, two sets of mortgages were arranged.
“One at conventional commercial interest rates and another at a staggering 20% annual interest rate, “payable on demand”.
“The 20% interest mortgages include a $13 million (RM39 mil) mortgage secured on Ottawa’s 333 Preston Street, a $15million (RM45 mil) mortgage secured on 17 Aberdeen St and a $45 million (RM135 mil) mortgage secured on 343 Preston Street,” said BMF director Lukas Straumann.
Alarmed at the Manulife’s unusual mortgage terms, Straumann has speculated that there is reasonable grounds to suspect that Sakto Corporation has been used by the Taib family to launder millions of dollars of corruption proceeds from Malaysia.
“ A 20% annual interest rate in the real estate business means high risk and lack of commerciality – typical indicators of money-laundering.
“These transactions point to serious shortcomings with Manulife’s compliance process.
“A number of red flags should have alerted the compliance office to stop these mortgage deals,” said Straumann
He said BMF has sent a letter to Guloien demanding that Manulife explain its Sakto mortgages, including its customer due diligence and anti-money-laundering procedures.
He said it is unusual for a highly-reputed Canadian financial services provider to conduct multi-million-dollar transactions with Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).
Manulife Financial with C$599 billion under its management is Canada’s largest insurance and financial service provider with operations in Asia and North America.
Guloien is set to face some crippling questions from his shareholders.
BMF has been on Taib’s back over his massive unexplainable wealth which the NGO claimed was derived from widespread logging of Sarawak by family and crony companies.
According to BMF the Taib clan has known stakes in over 400 companies in 25 countries and worldwide asserts worth US$20 billion (RM60 billion).
On Sunday it was reported that global banking conglomerate HSBC was pulling back from business dealings with the Taib clan.
Seen as being among several measures at ‘damage control’, the bank had notified all members of Taib family that they were not allowed to hold accounts with the bank.
The 31-year old Taib regime had come under heavy attack by international activists for a range of reportedly dictatorial and unlawful activities.
BMF claimed the ‘source’ of Taib and his clan’s wealth came indirectly from logging the state.
HSBC had reportedly bankrolled errant logging companies in Sarawak.
A criminal investigation by UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in 2012 showed that HSBC had violated its sustainability policies and earned around US$130 million (RM390mil) in the process.
The bank reportedly provided financial services to companies widely suspected of systematic bribery and corruption.
UK based NGO Global Witness which exposed HSBC said the institution provided loans and financial services to conglomerates and companies linked to Taib.
~ Free Malaysia Today