THE Brazilian Government has bestowed the Order of Rio Branco medal to prominent chartered accountant Datuk Robert Teo, 72, who is the managing partner of RSM Malaysia.
The medal is considered the most important honorific order that a foreigner can receive from the South American nation.
In presenting the medal during a ceremony held at his residence in Kuala Lumpur, Brazilian Ambassador to Malaysia Ary Norton de Murat Quintella said Teo had played a big role in helping foreign heads of mission keep abreast of latest developments during the previous movement control orders and travel restriction periods.
He said Teo, a popular figure in the local diplomatic circle, was secretary-general of an informal ambassador’s grouping and did his part to help connect the diplomats.
“During the worst periods of the Covid-19 pandemic, when physical meetings were not allowed which pretty much comprised almost half of my tenure so far in Malaysia, the grouping became even more important.
“It provided a way of keeping in touch with friends and exchanging views about everything that was going on in Malaysia, from both the foreign and local perspectives.
“The grouping would not exist without Teo and certainly would not have survived these Covid-19 times without him.”
Teo had his early career with Turquand Barton Mayhew (subsequently merged with Ernst & Young) and then founded his professional firm in 1978 which is presently known as RSM Malaysia.
He has more than 40 years of experience in corporate taxation and corporate restructuring exercise.
His specialised industry knowledge is in corporate tax planning with particular focus in the property, construction and housing development sector.
Explaining the significance of the award, Ary Norton said the medal paid homage to Rio Branco, who was Brazil’s foreign minister from 1902 to 1912 under four different presidents, a feat unequalled in Brazilian history.
“He was our longest-serving foreign minister. Rio Branco’s most important legacy to Brazil was his successful effort in defining the country’s borders with all of our neighbours.
“Brazil is one of the countries in the world with the highest number of land neighbours, 10 in all,” he said, adding there were no territorial conflicts thanks to Rio Branco.
“Before and during his 10-year term as foreign minister, Rio Branco negotiated territorial disputes between Brazil and some of its neighbours and consolidated the borders of modern Brazil.
“He is considered one of the most prominent Brazilian statesmen ever, as his proverbial work capacity, knowledge and skills were essential for the successful and peaceful outcome of difficult boundary disputes,” the envoy pointed out.
In receiving the medal, Teo, thanked his host for his kind words and pledged to do his best to foster diplomacy between Malaysia and the rest of the world through the grouping, known as the Ambassador’s Roundtable.
Also present at the event were Wisma Putra Undersecretary (Americas) Wan Yusri Wan Abdul Rashid, Ary Norton’s visiting mother Thereza, a retired career ambassador of 45 years, and Teo’s wife Datin Anita Leong.