Invited to explain the sources of his wealth, Sarawak Governor Abdul Taib Mahmud and his lawyers were a no-show at the launch of Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia by Lukas Straumann on Friday in London.
A chair reserved for Malaysia’s longest-serving politician at a panel discussion there remained empty as neither Taib nor his London lawyers, Mishcon de Reya, turned up according to a statement from the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF).
Straumann had challenged the Sarawak governor to participate in the event and explain the sources of his wealth after Taib had been described by his lawyers as an “ultra high net worth individual,” it explained.
The statement added that in a letter to Straumann, Mishco de Reya refused to clarify how their client had lawfully acquired his wealth during 51 years in office as a cabinet minister and said “the onus is on you to prove your own allegations to be true, not upon our client to disprove them.”
In his book, Straumann (right) accused the former long-serving Sarawak chief minister of criminal offences such as grand corruption and misconduct in public office.
Taib at one point had reportedly attempted to stop the sales of the book.
BMF said there have also been attempts to silence publicity over the book.
On Thursday, Mishcon de Reya allegedly threatened legal action against the BBC were it to broadcast an interview conducted with Straumann on timber corruption in Sarawak.
“Mishcon's claim was not backed by evidence on why the interview with Straumann should not be broadcast, apart from that Money Logging allegedly was ‘full of errors’," said BMF in an earlier statement.