Ninety per cent of my shares pledged with banks for loans, says Mahmud

Sarawak business entrepreneur Datuk Seri Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib today demolished claims by his former wife Shahnaz Abdul Majid that he is a billionaire beyond mega proportions when he testified that 90 per cent of his shares in Cahya Mata Sarawak representing an 11 per cent stake in the shareholding, have been pledged with banks for loans.

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“My personal liabilities in loans for my businesses are very high and substantial,” he said.

Mahmud made this testimony in the Shahriah High Court of Kuala Lumpur in a re examination by his counsel before Judge Muhamad Abdul Karim Wahab in the RM100 million ‘mutaah’ divorce claim by his ex wife. Lawyers acting for Mahmud were Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar and Saadiah Din.

Shahnaz had also claimed that he had a string of offshore bank accounts in Canada, the US, the Caribbean, France, Luxembourg, Monaco, Hong Kong and Switzerland. She had also testified that he had properties both locally and abroad, Mahmud said

Sarawak Report operated by British political activist Clare Rewcastle Brown and the Bruno Manser Fund consequently took the wild claim on an international scale to defame Mahmud and his father Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Governor of Sarawak and immediate former chief minister of the state, as well as other members of his family.

As a result, the attacks even continued into the Swiss Parliament where MPs had demanded that Swiss banks reveal his accounts following Shahnaz’s revelation of 111 purported offshore bank accounts. Even the MACC had begun investigations on the local front.

“This court has not been shown any evidence and proof that these accounts exist. Neither have these off shore banks been called in to testify its existence. These bank accounts are forgeries masquerading as hacks. They are not real,” he had earlier told the court.

Mahmud when asked to clarify on Cullen Johnson and Elaine White said, “The forged documents were obtained by my former wife and her legal team at a time when the fraudsters were running away from the arms of the law.”

It had been widely reported that Cullen Johnson and Elaine White were extradited to the US from a Turks and Caicos prison on 10 April 2013 on charges of money laundering, tax evasion and several charges of fraud valued at over US$1 million. Johnson and White were caught and arrested by the FBI and have now been indicted and jailed.

Mahmud even cited Harakah Daily that had been tabled as evidence by Shahnaz which widely reported that Sarawak Report political activist Clare Rewcastle-Brown had carried the defamatory reports.

When asked what led to his separation and ultimately, his divorce, Mahmud testified that there had been no common understanding and no compromise by his former wife. The husband-and-wife relationship deteriorated. As a result they lived separately in different rooms and consequently in different residences for 12 years 4 months before divorcing in 2011.

On claims that he had assets amounting to over RM1 billion, Mahmud told the court that the report by his former wife’s appointed audit firm Ferrier Hodgson MH was not credible. The auditor Andrew Heng who prepared the report, had not written to him nor to the company secretaries of the companies he had shares in, to determine his true wealth.

“The report had failed to take into consideration my liabilities and loans taken by myself and my companies when assessing my wealth.”

The audit firm had even made gross mistakes such as claiming barren bush land to be productive oil palm plantations with harvest potential.

In addition to the RM100 million for conciliatory gift (mutaah) claim today, Shanaz had also filed a number of other claims amounting to RM500 million for matrimonial assets division.

In the RM141 million claim for child maintenance, Shahnaz lost when the Appellate Court ruled unanimously in Mahmud’s favour on 14 July 2015 that his only son Raden Murya Abdul Taib Mahmud was matured and capable to apply for child maintenance on his own accord.  Shahnaz had asked for their son, a terrace house in London (RM60 million), two Aston Martins (RM5.5 million), and a private trust fund (RM40 million to be held by her).

The court was also told that both father and son have an excellent relationship with Raden currently working for Mahmud in one of his companies.

Written submissions for the mutaah claim are to be submitted by 30 October and the verdict is scheduled for 11 January 2016.