Bruno Manser Fund lodges complaint against Sarawak Energy CEO
Picture: NGO campaigners protest in front of Mr. Sjotveit's home in Bekkestua, a western suburb of Oslo (Picture: BMF/FIVAS)
(OSLO / NORWAY) In a surprise move, Swiss rainforest advocacy group, the Bruno Manser Fund, and its Norwegian partner, FIVAS, have lodged an urgent complaint against the state-owned Malaysian power supplier, Sarawak Energy, with Norway's anti-corruption agency, Okokrim. The complaint is directed against Sarawak Energy's Norwegian CEO, Torstein Dale Sjotveit, for unduly favouring the family of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud. Under Norway's tough anti-corruption laws, Norwegian citizens can be held accountable for their involvement in corruption anywhere in the world.
The complaint follows the announcement by Sarawak Energy that it has granted Sarawak Cable, a company chaired by Taib's son, Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, two contracts worth 196 million US dollars for the construction of powerlines in Sarawak. Earlier research by the Bruno Manser Fund had shown that, between 2010 and early 2013, Taib-family-linked companies had already been granted contracts worth over 220 million US dollars. With the latest announcement, the grand total of contracts awarded to the Taib family during Mr. Sjotveit's tenure as CEO of Sarawak Energy is more than USD 416 million.
"The extent of conflict of interest in the Sarawak power sector is simply shocking", Bruno Manser Fund director Lukas Straumann said on Friday after a meeting with Okokrim in Oslo. "And it is disturbing to see that ex-patriate managers working for the Sarawak government, such as Mr. Sjotveit, are playing an active role in the Taib family's machinations. Corruption is a crime and its responsibles must be held accountable."
The Bruno Manser Fund also criticized Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission for remaining inactive despite several complaints against Mr. Sjotveit and Sarawak Energy that had been lodged last year. "It is obvious that Malaysia's judiciary is protecting the Taib family and its backers from criminal prosecution. We therefore believe that only an investigation in Norway can push the matter forward."
Mr. Sjotveit has recently been conferred the honorary title of "datuk" (Sir) by the Governor of Sarawak. It is widely assumed that the distinction was awarded on request of Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud as a recognition of services rendered to his family.
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