KOTA KINABALU: Graft-busters have begun moving against Sabah’s powerful timber cartels, conducting simultaneous raids on three logging companies in Sandakan and Tawau. The Sabah Forestry Department headquarters was also raided.
Sources said a team of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigators went to the department in Sandakan yesterday morning, spending several hours searching for important documents.
“They were looking for certain licensing documents,” said a Forestry Department source.
The investigating team was looking for logging deals signed by the previous Barisan Nasional state government, headed by former chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
Sabah Conservator of Forests Datuk Sam Mannan was attending a conference in Kuching when the raids were conducted.
The department head gave no indication if he was aware of any MACC probe at his department.
It is learnt that during the raids by three separate MACC teams at the logging company offices – two in Sandakan and one in Tawau – documents pertaining to logging were seized.
It is understood that the companies raided belonged to the “big three” Sabah loggers who had allegedly obtained major logging concessions across the state.
Neither MACC deputy commissioner for operations Datuk Azam Baki or Sabah MACC chief Sazali Salbi could be reached for comment over the raids.
The raids came in the wake of Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal ordering a log export ban that was, among others, aimed at breaking up a timber cartel that had been monopolised by one party for more than a decade.
Shafie had said that the timber “extraction, buyer and seller” were all one group that had monopolised the trade that brought little direct spin-offs to the people and the economy.
A crackdown on illegal logging last month revealed that government-linked and public-listed companies were among more than 10 concessionaires investigated for breaching forestry laws in Sabah.
Over 40,000 logs, worth millions of ringgit in taxes alone, were seized from commercial forests and forest reserves in Tongod, Sandakan, Ranau and Kalabakan between July 5 and 14.
The new state government has restored the special committee under the Chief Minister’s Department to oversee all logging-related activities and to also enforce and execute laws under the Forestry Enactment 1968.
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