Mishcon de Reya, the London lawyers who represent Taib and his son-in-law Sean Murray and firms Sakto, Sakti and Ridgeford Properties, have been warned to “stop defending the corrupt” and to ditch their most controversial clients.
In a statement issued today the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) point out:
“Mishcon de Reya’s relationship with the Taib family goes back to 2011, when the law firm threatened a number of British journalists with legal action over critical reports on the Taib family and its ties to multi-million dollar property businesses in various countries.”
The Swiss based NGO demands that this relationship now be brought to an end.
Incorrect statements backing Taib
“Last week, The Independent quoted Mishcon de Reya’s lawyers as saying that “the government of Sarawak issues licences for land in very controlled circumstances… This is an administrative exercise, not political patronage. Our client never demands or accepts bribes for the grant of licences and leases.”
The Bruno Manser Fund challenges Mishcon de Reya to explain why, in these “very controlled circumstances”, close to 200,000 hectares of Sarawak state lands ended up in the hands of oil palm plantation companies in which Taib family members have a known business interest”.[stop Timber Corruption statement, 28/3]
The matter soon found its way also into Wikipedia, as third parties clearly decided to adopt the same tactics as the negative publicity campaigns which have been sponsored by the Taib family against their own critics over past months.
Other misleading statements put out by Mishcon de Reya on behalf of its clients included the claim that Taib Mahmud has no business interests whether as a director or shareholder in either Sakto, Sakti or Ridgeford properties.
This claim was made in 2011 by Mishcon de Reya after Sarawak Report had already published official documents detailing that Taib Mahmud had personally been registered as a named director of Sakti by official California company documents. We had also published the private lawyer’s agreement that a controlling 50% of all the shares in the company should be secretly held “in trust” for Taib, despite being publicly in the names of his family members.
Stop Intimidating journalists
BMF also challenged Mishcon to stop trying to intimidate journalists who were working to bring the true facts about Taib and his family businesses to public attention. The NGO made clear that it was unethical to try to issue threats on behalf of their very rich, but dirty client. Neither was it good for their credibility when these threats turned out to be empty:
“In April 2011, British journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown received a “strictly private & confidential” letter from Mishcon de Reya entitled “Notification of Intended Proceedings”. The letter, written on behalf of Taib’s Canadian son-in-law, Sean Murray, complained about the journalist’s reports on the Taib family-related Sakti International Inc. (US), Sakto Corporation (Canada) and Ridgeford Properties (UK).
“Rewcastle Brown, editor of Sarawak Report, was given 7 days to retract her allegations, failing which Mishcon de Reya threatened to “invite the Court to draw the appropriate inferences”. The lawfirm also stated that “our clients reserve their rights to issue proceedings against your defamation.” When Rewcastle Brown refused to retract the report, Mishcon de Reya’s legal letter turned out to be an empty threat”.
The NGO has been active in highlighting the involvement of a number of key ‘foreign helpers’ that have facilitated Taib’s corrupt exploitation of Sarawak, in return for doubtless very handsome fees.
The law firm joins a raft of professionals, such as accountants, bankers, PR people and technical experts like Norwegian dam builder Torstein Sjotveit, whom the NGO accuses of putting Taib’s big money before basic ethical concerns.
As the evidence mounts agains the Sarawak despot, who entered is 33rd year as Chief Minister this week, Taib’s “Foreign Helpers” are going to find their positions increasingly unenvied.
Read the full press statement