Lawyers of long-time former Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud have allegedly asked British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) not to cover a book on illegal logging in the state.
According to Bruno Manser Fund, the BBC has received a letter from Mishcon de Reya Solicitors, Taib’s lawyers in London, over BMF executive director Lukas Straumann’s new book ‘Lukas Straumann's book ‘Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian Timber Mafia’.
”During an interview with the BBC's World Service this afternoon, Lukas Straumann (right) was shown a ‘strictly private and confidential’ letter by Mishcon de Reya to the BBC, in which Taib's lawyers asked the BBC not to cover the book on Taib's environmental crimes in their broadcasts.
“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 a statement today.
The book on the destruction of a devastating 90 percent of Sawarak’s forests to illegal logging over the decades is being launched in London today.
Straumann has challenged Taib’s lawyers to explain why they object to the book and to attend the launch to present their case but they have allegedly remained silent.
“In a separate development, Mishcon de Reya did not to reply to a letter by Straumann in which he had asked for an explanation for Taib Mahmud's extreme wealth.
“Last week, Straumann challenged Taib to explain the source of Taib's extreme wealth and set a 13 January deadline for his lawyers to reply.
“He also invited Taib to make a public statement on the sources of his wealth on the occasion of the 16 January London book launch,” added BMF in the statement.
The Swiss-based NGO is determined to press on with the book despite Taib’s law firm’s legal threats to stop the publication and sale of the book.
The alleged letter to the BBC appears to be the latest in a long series of attempts to silence Straumann’s expose.
“In November 2014, Taib's lawyers had failed in an attempt to stop Money Logging from being published.
“Despite legal threats, Swiss publisher Bergli Books and Amazon decided to publish and distribute the book on a world wide level,” said BMF, adding the book has since been reviewed by National Geographic, The Huffington Post, The Ecologist and a number of other media.
Last November, BMF also claimed websites reporting on the book had been hacked, and that they were barred from attending and presenting the book at the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) session in Yokohama, Japan, allegedly due to objections from the Malaysian government.