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WWF "highly concerned" about Ta Ann corruption allegations

BASEL / GLAND). WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature, is "highly concerned " about corruption allegations against the Malaysian Ta Ann Group, a member of the WWF's Global Forest & Trade Network, and has announced a review of its sustainable forestry programme that involves close to 300 companies, communities and NGOs in more than 30 countries.

In a letter to the Swiss Bruno Manser Fund and to the Australian Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, the WWF's Director General, James P. Leape, is stating that "WWF is highly concerned about the claims against Ta Ann and has taken up the issue directly with the company." According to Leape, the Malaysian timber group is currently developing a public document in reponse to the latest corruption allegations.

The Bruno Manser Fund and Senator Brown had criticized the WWF's partnership with Ta Ann because of the timber group's close association with the Malaysian Taib family, one of South East Asia's largest corruption networks. Ta Ann has also been identified as being the major driver for high conservation value forest destruction in the Australian state of Tasmania.

Ta Ann is one of 49 companies blacklisted by the Bruno Manser Fund for its close links with the Taibs. The company is controlled by Hamed Sepawi, a cousin of the Sarawak Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud ("Taib") and by Wahab Dolah, a Member of the Malaysian Parliament for Taib's party, PBB. The group controls 362'000 hectares of logging concessions and 313'000 hectares of plantation concessions in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak. All these concessions have been granted to Ta Ann without public tender.

Ta Ann chairman, Abdul Hamed Sepawi, is a key crony and business ally of the Sarawak Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, one of South East Asia's longest-serving and most corrupt politicians. The WWF's partnership with Ta Ann has recently been criticized by Global Witness because of the timber group's responsibility for large-scale destructive logging in the Heart of Borneo, one of the WWF's priority conservation regions.


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