Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has contacted the country's Attorney-General's Department on a complaint of alleged corrupt activities by Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family members there.
According to Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Funds, Rudd's office had informed it of this development through a letter dated Sept 28, following the NGO's Sept 1 complaint.
"Mr Rudd (left) has asked me to reply on his behalf. Your correspondence has been referred to the Australian Attorney-General's Department for consideration," wrote Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officer Bassim Blazey.
Blazey, assistant secretary of the department's South-East Asia Division, added that the complaint would be viewed seriously as it falls under UN conventions to which Australia is a party.
"Australia takes its responsibilities under the UN Convention Against Corruption and the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime seriously and will continue to implement these obligations seriously.
"Thank you for bringing these concerns to the attention of the Australian government," he said in the letter made available to the press.
The tracking of Talib's dealings. Blazey had written in response to a letter jointly sent by BMF executive director Lukas Straumann, Sarawak Report editor Claire Rewcastle and Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian to Australian PM Julia Gillard.
In their letter, the parties expressed concern that Abdul Taib and his family "might have laundered and reinvested large amounts of corruption proceeds in Australia".
The trio suspect that Abdul Taib and his family may have done this through family members who are either Australian born, married to Australians or residing in Australia.
They also claim that their research shows that "a number of persons associated with (Abdul Taib) are holding significant interests in Australian companies, particularly the property sector".
The letter also cites as evidence the case between Abdul Taib's former aide Mohd Farok Abdul Majeed, who had allegedly disappeared in the middle of a court proceeding against the chief minister's brother, Onn.
The New South Wales court had awarded Mohd Farok A$2.2 million (RM7 million) for unpaid work by his construction company Australasia Pacific Management Pty Ltd, but the Supreme Court overturned the judgment due to Mohd Farok's non-appearance in court in 2008.
This, the trio said, bears "striking resemblance" to the case of Ross Boyert, another of Abdul Taib's aide, who was found dead in a Los Angeles hotel in September 2010, after filing a civil case against companies owned by Taib's family members.
BMF lists 25 companies as being linked to Abdul Taib and his family, through ownership or other ties.