Kuala Lumpur: Corruption watchdog Transparency International called on Wednesday on the powerful boss of a Malaysian state to step aside after a video purportedly linking him to abuse of power went viral online.
The clip produced by London-based NGO Global Witness allegedly depicts a “sting”, in which a person posing as a foreign businessman is seen negotiating with cousins and associates of Sarawak state chief Taib Mahmud.
The video has received more than 200,000 views since it was posted on Tuesday and sparked a flood of online postings calling for Taib’s arrest.
Taib, 76, has headed resource-rich Sarawak on Borneo island as chief minister since 1981 and has for years faced — and denied — allegations of large-scale corruption and nepotism.
The chief minister could not be reached by AFP for comment. But he dismissed the video as a possible attempt to smear him, in comments made in Sarawak’s capital Kuching that were also uploaded on YouTube later Tuesday.
People in the clandestinely shot 16-minute Global Witness video are shown explaining how they make huge profits selling land titles issued by Taib, thus circumventing taxes and Malaysian law, the NGO said.
AFP could not confirm the identities of the people shown, or Global Witness’s account. The NGO campaigns against corruption and conflict related to natural resources.
Authorities should launch a full investigation of the video, Josie Fernandez, secretary-general of Transparency International’s Malaysian chapter, told reporters in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
She also urged the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to speed up an investigation into Taib that the agency said it had launched two years ago.
“Prime Minister Najib Razak must call on the chief minister of Sarawak to resign until investigations are completed”, she said, adding the existing MACC probe “seems to be taking a long time”.
The Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund released a report in September alleging Taib had amassed an estimated $15 billion (Dh55 billion) fortune, which would make him Malaysia’s richest man and one of the world’s wealthiest.
Activists accuse Taib and his family of massive graft in awarding Sarawak timber concessions and other contracts, and of rapacious development that has seen rain forests felled, questionable dams built and tribal groups uprooted.
Taib has defended the policies, saying the state needs to be developed.
Critics of Malaysia’s long-ruling party accuse the central government of failing to act against Taib because his tight control of Sarawak has kept it a vital party stronghold.
The MACC’s director of investigation, Mustafar Ali, told AFP the original Taib probe was still continuing.
“With the new evidence that has emerged, the MACC will act accordingly,” he said, without specifying any steps.
A spokesman for the prime minister’s office said they had no comment on the matter as yet.