BMF scandal: When Chiang Meng Chuan a.k.a. George Tan came into the picture…

“Had that happened, Linda would probably have known about the conversation her father had with David on the 12th of January 1980. On that day, Kee Tat informed his future son in-law that the then Minister of Finance, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, would help secure financing for the purchase of Gammon House by Hartamas. Now, imagine the tycoon’s shock when he discovered that Lee had a son who was already the beneficial owner of the unit. According to David, the said unit was being held by him “through a rather peculiar deed of trust” that was set to expire by January 1980″

THE THIRD FORCE

There is a little known episode in the entire BMF-Jalil saga that packs quite a punch the minute you dive into it. The said episode concerns John Wimbush, a onetime senior partner with Hong Kong’s oldest and largest legal firm, Deacons. In 1972, Sir Henry Keswick (SEE PART 3, LINK BELOW), then the Senior Managing Director (MD) of Jardine Methason & Co. (JMC), persuaded a London based legal firm named Linklaters LLP to join forces with Deacons by opening a branch office in Hong Kong.

Henry’s interest in Linklaters stemmed in part from its representation of Hongkong Land, a subsidiary of JMC that focused on property investment, development and management. It occurred to him that a joint venture between Deacons and Linklaters would immensely benefit JMC, as having both its Hong Kong and London reps team up would cut a lot of red tape and ease regulatory work. But it was the near-expiration of the Lease of New Territories (LNT) that prompted Henry to fast track negotiations between the two firms.

Now, for those of you who are in the know, the LNT concerns an agreement the Qing dynasty undertook with the British in 1898. Under the terms of the agreement, the Chinese Government was to lease New Kowloon and the Outlaying islands of mainland China to the United Kingdom (UK) for 99 years. Claude MacDonald, the British official who represented the Queens government during discussions, went on record to say that he picked a 99-year term for the lease as he believed it to be “as good as forever.” On the day Henry dragged representatives from both Linklaters and Deacons to their first roundtable, there were exactly 25 years left for the lease to run.

A week prior to the meeting, a British trained engineer who went by the name of George Tan Soon Gin had just arrived in Hong Kong from Singapore. Henry, who was told of his arrival by Wimbush, was also informed that George Tan was not his real name. According to the Deacons lawyer, his real name was Chiang Meng Chuan, an orphan from mainland China who was adopted by a Lee Dong Seng, the leader of a triad said to be associated with the world’s second most notorious syndicate, the 14K group.

And this is the backstory:

At the age of 6, Chiang was ‘smuggled’ for some reason or other into Labuan before the lad ended up in Sarawak. Lee, who went on to befriend a big-time Malaysian smuggler by the name of Chang Ming Thien, paid the latter a hefty sum to get Chiang’s birth details and other essential documents faked. Chiang then came to be known as George Tan Soon Gin, while his older brother, Chiang Chee Cheong, moved to Hong Kong and went on to become the leader of a notorious triad. The said triad had extensive links with officials in Hongkong Land and ‘controlled’ massive fleets of taxis in the British colony.

At the age of 19 (and not 20 as reported in some literature), George moved to Singapore to take up a job with a shipping company. Having been declared bankrupt some twenty years later, he arrived on the shores of Hong Kong with less than RM200 in his pocket. The person who helped him get to the British colony was none other than Ming Thien (the smuggler), who by then had founded and controlled the United Malayan Banking Corporation (UMBC). Now, this is the same UMBC that Daim Zainuddin was dying to acquire from Multi-Purpose Holdings Berhad (MPHB) back in the eighties (SEE PART 2, LINK BELOW).

The minute George set foot in Hong Kong, he was met by his blood brother, Chee Cheong, who quickly got him acquainted with the owner of a construction firm. The firm was part of Chee Cheong’s network of companies that helped Lee (his adoptive father) spirit dirty money through the British colony. The owner of the firm immediately turned George into the company’s project manager before making him its chief executive. In 1984, George produced a file full of documents that ‘proved’ to the court his associations with the said company.

But the documents were fake.

Not even Ming Thien knew that George was really in Hong Kong to help settle a dispute between his brother and Sir Henry. The dispute flared up the minute Henry floated the idea of having Linklaters open up a branch office in Hong Kong. Chee Cheong, whose triad owned large plots of land and property within the colony’s central district, was incensed that Henry had plotted behind his back to bring the British law firm to Hong Kong. Both he and his adoptive father were dead against the secret LNT talks that were then ongoing between the UK and Chinese governments.

The whole mess began when Chee Cheong was told by his ‘associates’ in Hongkong Land that the UK government was being represented by a team that included two lawyers from Linklaters. These lawyers, said to be ‘on vacation’, would quietly sneak into Hong Kong each time a meeting between UK and Chinese officials was slated to take place. George’s elder brother came to know that the lawyers were secretly meeting up with Henry to discuss some terms that had to do with the LNT.

Both Chee Cheong and his father were dead against any form of extension to the LNT as the triads they controlled owned many property units with terms expiring in 1997. Lee had some serious connections with certain Chinese officials who promised to extend those terms for 70 years immediately upon the return of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Henry, on the other hand, had connections with both Hong Kong and Chinese officials who agreed to a plan he had in mind.

The said plan involved the development of an elaborate business park in the Central District of Hong Kong under the Jardine construction portfolio. Henry needed to purchase some of the units Lee and Chee Cheong’s triads owned as the units were within hailing distances of the newly completed Connaught Centre (now known as the Jardine Tower) and Gammon House (now known as the Bank of America Tower). But Lee and his son made it absolutely clear that they would only consider selling their units once they were sure Hong Kong would be returned to China as scheduled.

Now, that didn’t qo down quite well with Henry, whose reps from Linklaters were secretly helping the British government negotiate a 40-year extension on the LNT. He knew that an extension of even 20 years would allow him to negotiate the purchase of any units with expiring terms at a dirt cheap prices. And this is what concerned Chee Cheong and Lee most. They knew that should the talks between the Chinese and British governments result in an extension, they would lose their bargaining power as units with expiring lease terms usually fetched low profits.

On the 1st of November 1972, George was met by Wimbush at an office unit located next to Jardine Tower. On that day, the 39-year old Singaporean migrant agreed to help soften his father and brother on condition that Henry would loop him into the proposed business park plan. A week later, Wimbush conveyed to George that Henry had agreed to the condition. Now, you may find this a little difficult to swallow, but on the 20th of May 1973, George was made the beneficial owner of Gammon House through an agreement that also saw Sir David Davies becoming its trustee.

Effectively, that made it two commercial units that Honkong Land had ‘given away’ in a span of just two years – one was Jardine Tower (SEE PART 3, LINK BELOW), while the other was Gammon House. By then, George managed to convince both his adoptive father and blood brother about letting Linklaters set up a branch office in Hong Kong. In return, Wimbush agreed to defer the proposed joint venture between the two law firms until such a time that Lee and Chee Cheong were comfortable with the way talks between the British and Chinese governments were progressing.

For a while, things cooled down. Weeks slowly turned into months, and the months, years. Then, all of a sudden, a high-flying Malaysian tycoon from out of nowhere became extremely interested in purchasing Gammon House. The said tycoon was none other than the late Dato’ Wong Kee Tat, a seemingly mild mannered Chinaman who partnered with the late Tan Sri Syed Kechik Muhamed Al-Bukhary to carry out development projects in and around Kuala Lumpur (SEE PART 3, LINK BELOW).

While the two billionaires may have long passed on, Kee Tat’s daughter, Linda Wong, is very much alive and kicking to this day. Perhaps she can attest to all this by making public her father’s ties with Lee Dong Seng and Chang Ming Thien. Perhaps she can confirm if it was Chee Cheong who helped finance many of Kee Tat’s business ventures with money laundered from China. Had Wimbush and the latter’s associate from Price Waterhouse & Co. not helped cover some of the money trails, Malaysians today would probably be referring to Kee Tat as “that Chinaman who went from rags to riches to being a convict.” 

Yes, had Jalil Ibrahim not been murdered, the law would eventually have caught up with Kee Tat.

Under the circumstances, Linda would probably have known all about the conversation her father had with David on the 12th of January 1980. On that day, Kee Tat informed his future son in-law that the then Minister of Finance, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, would help secure financing for the purchase of Gammon House by Sri Hartamas Development Berhad (Hartamas). Now, imagine the tycoon’s shock when he discovered that Lee had a son who was already the beneficial owner of the commercial unit. According to David, the said unit was being held by him “through a rather peculiar deed of trust” that was set to expire in January 1980.

A very puzzled Kee Tat (who didn’t even know Chee Cheong had a brother) immediately got in touch with Lee. An even more puzzled Lee burst into flames upon discovering that his son had betrayed him by breaching an agreement the latter himself mediated in 1973. The shocking discovery led to a ferocious feud between George and Lee that left Chee Cheong torn between his loyalty towards his adoptive father and love for his brother…

To be continued…

Note: This series of exposes will span some 20 parts and is the result of an extremely elaborate 12-month discovery exercise that involved intelligence agents and whistleblowers from both the US and the UK. All those named who are as yet alive are at liberty to challenge these findings in public or in the court of law if they so wish to. Towards the later part of this series where BMF’s and BBMB’s financials are discussed, elaborate transaction schemes and documents will be presented as and when deemed necessary.

PAST ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

Part 1: The dirtiest scandals in Malaysian history. Part 1 – The Maminco tin scandal as never before told

Part 2: Mahathir, Tengku Razaleigh, Ling Liong Sik and the birth of Makuwasa Securities Sdn Bhd

Part 3: The murder of Jalil Ibrahim: Let’s start from the very beginning…

Tag: BMFCARRIAN

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