Type of site
|News, Document archive and disclosure|
|Available in||English, Iban, Malay, Mandarin|
|Created by||Clare Rewcastle Brown|
|Launched||12 February 2010|
|38,491 in world, (1,107 in Malaysia) (Oct 2015[update])|
Sarawak Report describes itself as "a group of citizens and onlookers deeply concerned by the situation in Sarawak, East Malaysia." It was founded by Clare Rewcastle Brown, sister-in-law of former UK prime minister Gordon Brown. In 2013, Bridget Welsh, a political science professor at Singapore Management University and an expert on Malaysian affairs, credited Sarawak Report for its “impact on the political debate” over deforestation in Sarawak. and the New York Times called Ms Rewcastle Brown "one of the most effective voices calling attention to deforestation in Malaysia"
Sarawak Report editor, Rewcastle Brown was barred from entering Sarawak in July 2013. She arrived at Kuching International Airport in Sarawak, only to be detained at the airport and put back on a plane for Singapore. The former Chief Minister of Sarawak, Abdul Taib Mahmud was known to bar his critics from entering the Sarawak state.
In 2010, Rewcastle Brown also set up sister organisation Radio Free Sarawak, an independent radio station that brings alternative news for 2 hours a day via shortwave to remote indigenous communities in Sarawak, East Malaysia. The radio show won the IPI International Press Institute Free Media Pioneers Award 2013
Sarawak Report was dubbed as the "Wikileaks of Sarawak" following its chain of exposés of alleged land grabs by the family of Sarawak's chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and their international property empire.
Taib Mahmud family overseas property
In June 2010, Sarawak Report began its first exposé by publishing an article detailing about Canadian properties owned by the family of Taib Mahmud. This was followed by subsequent exposés on his properties in United States and London. Taib Mahmud's former aide, Ross Boyert was the major source for Sarawak Report on the Taib family property empire in the United States. Exposés by Sarawak Report have led to investigations by Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Canada into Taib family alleged assets.
Bakun Dam construction methods
In April 2011, Sarawak Report claimed that its website was hacked after it reported that Chinese dam constructor Sinohydro had used faulty construction methods when building the Bakun Dam, one of the largest dams in Asia. Sinohydro later acknowledged their flawed construction procedures in building the dam.
FBC Media scandal
In August 2011, an investigation by Sarawak Report revealed that FBC Media, a media production company had been acting as a public relations firm for Malaysian politicians including Abdul Taib Mahmud and Najib Tun Razak. The exposé caused BBC and CNBC to sever their relationships with FBC Media, and resulted in FBC Media going into administration on 24 October 2011. The BBC later issued a worldwide apology and revised its commissioning procedures after the revelation that it had been commissioning programming from FBC at token prices, which the company had then used as a PR platform for its business and political clients.
Musa Aman timber corruption
In April 2012, Sarawak Report published a series of leaked documents from Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), alleging the business relation between Musa Aman, who is the Sabah Chief Minister, and Michael Chia, the middleman in managing kickbacks for timber companies' operations inside Sungai Pinangah Forest Reserve, Sabah. Michael Chia was caught trying to smuggle SGD 16 million out of Hong Kong in 2008. Abdul Gani Patail, the Attorney General of Malaysia who is related to the Musa Aman family, was accused of trying to block the MACC investigation. Swiss authorities cooperated with their counterparts in Hong Kong in the investigation of the Musa Aman case. On 11 October 2012, in a written reply to the Parliament, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said Musa Aman has been cleared of the alleged RM40 million kickbacks for timber licences by the Attorney-General's Chambers as "the funds were contributions to the Sabah Umno liaison body and not for the personal use of the chief minister". The Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, refused to disclose the source of the political donation but he insisted that the money was funded through legitimate channels. In response to the reply by Najib, Sarawak Report released another set of documents on 14 October which pointed the donors to Sabah and Sarawak timber tycoons. In April 2013, Reuters validated that the documents released by Sarawak Report as genuine. Two of the timber firms confirmed with Reuters that the money was transferred to secure the logging contracts. MACC officials also told Reuters that the documents are authentic and Musa Aman was the focus of the investigation.
Riza Aziz and Red Granite Pictures
In December 2013, Sarawak Report ran a series of exposes on Riza Aziz, stepson of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, and how he managed to get millions in funding for his film production company Red Granite Pictures. The production company was involved with funding the Oscar nominated movie, The Wolf of Wall Street to a tune of US$100 million. Also reported was Aziz's purchase of a US$33.5 million luxury condominium in New York in November 2012. Red Granite Pictures has threatened legal action against Sarawak Report, but no action has been taken so far. In January 2014, Riza Aziz was dropped from a list of nominees for Academy Award for Best Picture after he was nominated by Producers Guild of America (PGA) for the movie "Wolf of the Wall Street".
1Malaysia Development Berhad
In May 2014, Sarawak Report began to allege that 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was backing Jho Low's company, Wynton Group, for a bid to purchase Maybourne Hotel Group in London. In August 2014, Red Granite Pictures admitted that its financial backer for film production was Aabar Investments where the latter had a strong investment ties with 1MDB. In March 2015, the website ran several reports about a strategic development fund supported by the Malaysian government and its business dealings. One such report was made about joint venture deal had been initiated by Jho Low on September 8, 2009 between 1MDB and PetroSaudi International, and how Jho Low allegedly siphoned off US$700 million from the deal into an account controlled by him. PetroSaudi has denied the reports, while 1MDB has denied any connections with Jho Low. Sarawak Report further alleges that the 1 billion loan paid by 1MDB to PetroSaudi has not been declared to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), the Malaysian central bank. KPMG was alleged to have provided fraudulent accounting practices to 1MDB. However, KPMG global headquarters has since denied any links with 1MDB and they are not responsible for accounting practices held by its partners in Malaysia. 1MDB was also accused of providing false documents to Malaysian central bank and other international banks. The website also alleged that US$1.16 billion from 1MDB went into a company account, Good Star Limited controlled by Jho Low, US$700 million into personal account of Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, and RM 2 million into prime minister's wife Rosmah Mansor personal account. Jho Low was also accused of paying for Rosmah's jewellery purchases. Najib has since denied that he had taken 1MDB funds for personal gain while Rosmah denied that she has misappropriated the funds from 1MDB. On 4 August 2015, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) announced that the US$700 million was a political donation for United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) held in trust by Najib Razak. On 15 August 2015, Sarawak Report alleged that after the 2013 Malaysian General Election, US$650 million out of US$700 million in Najib's account was transferred back to Tanore Finance Corporation (BVI) at Falcon bank in Singapore when his account was closed on 30 August 2013. Tanore Corporation was later closed down in April 2014. The website also alleged that UMNO Back Bencher Chairman Shahrir Abdul Samad, received RM1 million while the Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan, received RM2 million from the Najib's private account.
In June 2015, a former PetroSaudi employee named Xavier Justo was arrested in Thailand for leaking information about 1MDB and attempting to blackmail his former employer. Meanwhile, Protection Group International (PGI) alleged that Sarawak Report documents were "inconsistent" and "unreliable". Lester Melanyi, former editor of Sarawak Tribune who worked for Radio Free Sarawak (RFS, sister site of Sarawak Report) for a brief period in 2011, posted a series of videos on YouTube that alleged Sarawak Report for tampering documents related with 1MDB scandal. However, Sarawak Report has since denied the allegations and while questioning Lester credibility and accuracy in making the allegations. On 19 July 2015, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) decided to block access to Sarawak Report because the content of the website appears to be "unsubstantiated" and it may "undermined the stability" of the country.
On 1 August 2015, Najib addressed UMNO delegates in Seremban and in a clear reference to the Sarawak Report, demanded that “white people” stay out of Malaysia’s affairs. Three days later, Malaysian police obtained an arrest warrant for the founder and editor of the Sarawak Report, Clare Rewcastle-Brown. The warrant issued by a Kuala Lumpur court was for activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy under Section 124B and 124I of the Penal Code.
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