KUCHING: A hotel company linked to Sarawak Governor Taib Mahmud donated an oil painting by famous Australian artist John Olsen to the Art Gallery of South Australia, claims the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) in a statement calling for the restitution of all Taib family donations from “stolen assets”.
“Again, the Bruno Manser Fund calls on the Art Gallery of South Australia to disclose the value and full background of the Taib donation to its collection and to restitute the gift to the people of Sarawak.”
The painting “Meandering Murray and wattles” was donated in 2013 by Sitehost Pty Ltd (Sitehost) through an Australian Government cultural gifts programme, according to BMF. “The painting is estimated to be worth a small fortune.”
“John Olsen’s most expensive paintings sold for over AUD 300,000 at major auctions.”
It appears that the South Australian lawyer and art collector, Michael Abbott QC, played a key role in Taib’s Australia relations, said BMF. “Abbott was Chairman of the Art Gallery of South Australia when it received the John Olsen painting from Sitehost.”
Abbott also reportedly assisted Adelaide University in a major fundraising drive with the then Sarawak Chief Minister. “From 2002 until 2014, he and Taib were directors of the Australian Universities International Alumni Convention, an Australian proprietary company,” said BMF.
Last month, Adelaide University was forced to disclose that it had received AUD 400,000 in donations from Taib Mahmud during his 33-year tenure as Chief Minister of Sarawak.
Sitehost owns the Adelaide Hilton hotel. The company is owned by Taib’s children and a Taib family offshore trust in the British Virgin Islands.
A report by BMF in September disclosed that AUD 30 million of unexplained wealth had flowed into Sitehost.
Subsequently, Australian corporate regulator ASIC commissioned a specialist team to probe Sitehost. The Australian Foreign Ministry and the South Australian Government have also referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police.
Taib has twice been cleared of corruption by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) on the grounds that he followed “procedures”.
~ Free Malaysia Today