Malaysia's deputy trade minister alleged to have conflict of interest in secret holdings of harvesting rights to 15 sq. km. of endangered ironwood in Sarawak

LOS ANGELES , February 28, 2012 () – Malaysia's Deputy Minister for International Trade and Industry Jacob Sagan has been accused of secretly holding several concessions of the valuable and endangered belian or ironwood tree, Timber Trade Journal (TTJ) reported Feb. 28.

Sarawak Report alleged Sagan's ownership of the logging rights represents a conflict of interests.

The 15 sq. km (5.8 sq miles) of belian are located in Sarawak state rainforest, according to information posted on the Sarawak Report website, reported TTJ.

Sarawak-born Sagan and his wife own Milisha Holdings Sdn Bhd, which owns some of the forestland, and through Winjac, Sdn Bhd his wife and daughter own the rest.

The elian tree can sell for up to M$6,000 (US$1,990) a tonne, reported TTJ. Its export from Sarawak is banned, TTJ reported.

Sagan has supported Sarawak chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud’s plans for a new dam. The project would require flooding of about 400 sq km of forest, according to the Sarawak Report.

Sagan's reasons for supporting the dam presents a conflict of interests with his forest concessions, the report said.

The primary source of this article is the Timber Trade Journal (TTJ), Sidcup, England, Feb. 28, 2012.

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