The petty and envious, I see, are once again making the rudest noises about the origins of the $1.2 billion fortune of Great RockcliffianTM Jamilah Taib, the richest woman in Canada.
Jamilah and hubby Sean Murray, through the Sakto Group, a web of highly successful companies, administer a sprawling real estate empire in Canada, the U.S., Australia and the U.K. Jewels in their crown include the Ontario Attorney General’s office on Preston Street (see below), the Abraham Lincoln Building – the FBI’s Seattle HQ, and the Adelaide Hilton Hotel.
Sean, of the Rockcliffe Murrays (Uncle Patrick of Murray and Murray Architects, is former mayor of the village), met Jamilah when he was at Ashbury with her brother, Mahmud (class of ’82) and she was at Elmwood.
Jamilah, through a happy accident of birth, is the eldest daughter of Abdul Taib Mahmud, the billionaire governor of the Malaysian province of Sarawak.
From 1981 until his well-earned retirement in February, Taib was Chief Minister of Sarawak, and though the post paid only $200,000 per annum, the talented entrepreneur managed to amass a fortune estimated at $15 billion. A host of family-owned companies have demonstrated an uncanny knack for scoring state resource rights and development contracts, as 90 per cent of the province’s rainforest has been felled for timber and replaced by palm oil plantations.
Taib’s remarkable good fortune, alas, now has him under investigation by Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission for embezzling state funds, abuse of office and blah-blah-blah.
Meanwhile, back in Canada, Jamilah and Sean have endured a steady drumbeat of uncharitable commentary from Switzerland’s Bruno Manser Fund, an anti-logging NGO seemingly obsessed with connecting their fortunes to those of Papa Taib, preposterously alleging his ill-gotten booty has somehow sloshed through the Sakto empire.
Bruno Manser himself disappeared in 2000 while on a visit to Taib’s Sarawak fiefdom and is long presumed dead, but his flunkies continue their tasteless harassment of Jamilah and her suspiciously wealthy rellies.
In April, BMF researchers turned their attentions to Preston Square, Sean and Jamilah’s properties in Little Italy, which occupy an entire block of Preston between the Queensway and Aberdeen Street.
Since 2003, the shrewd and talented power couple have encumbered three properties, 333 Preston, 343 Preston and 17 Aberdeen, with two mortgages each, for a total of $143 million. Each property is mortgaged through Manulife, both at plausible single-digit interest rate and again at an eye-popping 20 per cent vig. Frank is certain there’s a strong business case for this baffling manoeuvre, but the Manserites smell a rat.
“The high interest rate suggests high risk and a lack of commerciality – typical red flags for money laundering,” quoth the BMF report. The authors have written Manulife for an explanation of the outrageous mortgages, but answer comes there none.
More fascinating details will no doubt be forthcoming in November, when the Taib-Murray clan gets a book-length treatment. In Money Logging: On the Trail of the Asian timber Mafia, by BMF executive director Lukas Straumann, we’re promised in a press release, “takes on Sarawak governor Abdul Taib Mahmud and his kleptocratic family.”
Frank has requested a review copy. Stay tuned.
Those Little Italy Mortgages in Full:
333 Preston Street (Tower One Holding Company)
– $13 million at 6.39 per cent, maturity October 1, 2013
– $13 million at 20 per cent, payable on demand
17 Aberdeen Street (Adelaide Ottawa Corporation)
– $15 million at 5.69 per cent, maturity March 1, 2020
– $15 million at 20 per cent, payable on demand
343 Preston Street (Tower Two Holding Corporation)
– $45 million at 5.69 per cent, maturity December 1, 2021
– $45 million at 20 per cent, payable on demand
TOTAL: $146 million