Australian authorities have been urged to start legal proceedings against a prominent Malaysian family over the alleged laundering of $30 million in South Australia.
A report released on Wednesday by the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund, an anti-corruption organisation concerned over logging of rainforests, alleges Sarawak governor and former chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family invested $30 million of unexplained wealth in Adelaide real estate in the 1990s, principally a major hotel.
Bruno Manser Fund director Lukas Straumann says the report sets out a prima facie case of money laundering and should be enough to trigger criminal proceedings in Australia.
He says Taib Mahmud has been under investigation for the past four years by the Malaysian anti-corruption commission but the probe has faced strong political resistance.
“What we see here in Adelaide fits into an international pattern,” Mr Straumann told reporters in Adelaide.
“If Australian prosecutors undertook an investigation, together with prosecutors in the UK and the US, I think that would really have some weight and Malaysia could be pressured to co-operate.”
State Greens MP Mark Parnell has called on the South Australian government to investigate the allegations raised by the Bruno Manser Fund.
In a motion in state parliament on Tuesday, Mr Parnell asked the government to freeze all the Taib family’s assets in SA where no credible explanation for the wealth could be provided.
The case should be referred to the appropriate federal government law enforcement agencies, he said.
The Bob Brown Foundation has also urged the federal government to conduct an investigation.
“Australia needs to take consistent action to crack down on money laundering, tax avoidance and corruption and act to ensure higher levels of transparency,” foundation campaign manager Jenny Weber said.
“Doing nothing implicates Australia in the unacceptable practices of corruption.”