A Shariah Appeal Court in Kuala Lumpur has ordered Mahmud Bekir to pay RM30 million (C$9.4 million) for “mutaah” or conciliatory gifts to his former wife, Shahnaz Majid. Bekir is the son of Taib Mahmud, the governor of the state of Sarawak, and younger brother to Jamilah Taib, Chair of Ottawa’s Sakto Corp.
|Abu Bekir Taib|
The appeal court in Malaysia upheld a 2016 ruling, with the judge saying that “there is no error under Islamic law and principles made by our Shariah High Court colleague in awarding the RM30 million.”
The court proceedings were notable for revealing some of the unsavoury aspect of Sharia law. Bekir’s lawyers claimed he found out his wife was not a virgin on their wedding night, and that according to Sharia law this would then be a mitigating factor with regard to compensation. The judge subsequently allowed Bekir’s lawyers to include this information in their submission, but to no avail.
In the early 1980s, Bekir attended Ashbury College in Ottawa, where he befriended Sean Murray, who later became Jamilah Taib’s husband. At the time, Jamilah attended the all girls Elmwood School. Both Bekir and Jamilah graduated in 1982. In 1986, the Taib’s third child, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, also graduated from Ashbury College.
In 1983 Bekir, along with his sister Jamilah and their uncle Onn Mahmud, founded Ottawa-headquartered Sakto Corporation. However, Bekir soon left Ottawa for the United States, as did his brother Sulaiman. Both Bekir and Sulaiman now reside in Malaysia.
In 1987 Sean Murray, who is two years younger than Jamilah, converted to Islam and adopted the name “Hisham” in order to marry. The enterprising couple, who appear to only have ever worked for themselves, now control real estate holdings in Canada and the United Kingdom worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Bekir’s divorce proceedings have been of interest to observers in Malaysia and beyond as it has helped shed light on the fabulous wealth of Taib Mahmud’s family, much of which has been shrouded in secrecy. For example, Taib Mahmud, who has lived for years on the modest salary of a public servant, has admitted to providing the seed capital to get Jamilah started in the real estate business in Ottawa – but neither Jamilah nor her father have indicated how much money was involved.
And back in 1987 Taib Mahmud’s wife, and mother to his children, purchased a house in Ottawa’s tony Rockcliffe park for C$945,000, which she subsequently gifted to her daughter Jamilah and son-in-law Sean. It is unclear how the wife of a public servant on a modest income, and with no independent means of support, could have afforded such a purchase.
Where, then, was all the money coming from? For years there have been allegations that Taib Mahmud gained his substantial wealth via control over logging concessions in his native Sarawak, as well from numerous private enterprises that have benefitted from untendered contracts with the Sarawak government.
Leading the charge to uncover the alleged corruption has been the Swiss NGO Bruno Manser Fonds, which is now facing a defamation suit brought by Jamilah Taib and Sean Murray in a Swiss court. This is welcome news. If it can be shown that Taib Mahmud, a life-long politician, as well as his children and their many enablers – including bankers, accountants, and lawyers – have been financed purely by the entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen of a remarkable family, then matters can finally be put to rest.
If, however, Jamilah Taib and Sean Murray are unable to indicate how they have generated such remarkable wealth, then the questions regarding the legitimacy of their many enterprises will likely remain.
La politica has written extensively on this topic, and will continue to do so. Below is a list of related posts:
Malaysian fugitive Jho Low takes a leaf from Jamilah Taib’s playbook (September 17, 2018).
Jamilah Taib, Chair of Ottawa’s Sakto Corp, May Soon be of Interest to Authorities in Malaysia and Canada (August 9, 2018).
Lady Luck Keeps Shining on Ottawa’s Sakto Corporation (May 18, 2018).
Tips are always welcome at lapoliticaeslapolitica[at]gmail[dot]com.