KOTA KINABALU: The anti-graft agency’s investigation of shady logging deals in Sabah has piqued the interest of the taxman.
Inland Revenue Department chief executive officer Datuk Sabin Samitah said he was interested to know more about the logging companies involved.
He said the federal and state governments were losing a lot of revenue due to illegal logging.
“We will get to the bottom of this,” Sabin said after paying a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal here yesterday.
The IRD’s interest comes as Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) personnel headed into remote Sabah’s central Tongod district to probe links between state foresters and politically linked timber cartels involved in illegal logging over the past decade.
They were seen going through a logging yard there as another team returned to the Sabah Forestry Department in Sandakan to secure more documents on timber logging licences and other related documents.
MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki confirmed that an investigation into the Sabah Forestry Department and logging companies were ongoing and that his officers had seized files from the department.
He also said that officers were making a “second visit” to the department and that no accounts had been frozen as yet.
“I can confirm the probe but I can’t give details as we are still in the process of investigating,” said Azam.
It could not be immediately ascertained if the Tongod timber yard with thousands of logs belonging to a major logging company was sealed off by investigators who were at the scene till late yesterday.
Graft busters are tight-lipped over the probe after a special operation in July uncovered massive illegal logging by government-linked and public-listed companies, who were among more than 10 concessionaires investigated for breaching forestry laws in Sabah
Shafie yesterday welcomed the investigation.
“It is good. Let them (MACC) do their job,” he told reporters.
Sources said the big three timber boys in Sabah’s logging cartel were being investigated with at least three company offices in Sandakan and Tawau raided since Wednesday.
Well-placed MACC sources said officers are already poring over documents recovered during the raids to see if anything was amiss.
A source said that the MACC was investigating if there were shady deals between the officials of the previous state administration and certain companies.
“That is why we raided the Forestry Department and went to offices of several logging companies,” a source told The Star.
The investigating team is believed to be looking for logging deals signed by the previous Barisan Nasional state government headed by then chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman.
The raids came in the wake of Shafie 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.
Over 40,000 logs, worth millions of ringgit in taxes alone, were seized from commercial forests and forest reserves in Ranau, Kalabakan and Tongod in Sandakan between July 5 and 14.
MACC has yet to make any arrest.
The new state government has restored the special committee under the Chief Minister’s Department to oversee all logging-related activities and also enforce and execute laws under the Forestry Enactment 1968.