KOTA KINABALU - Hundreds, if not thousands, of Sabah native certificates may have been fraudulently obtained by those without any native bloodline.
Many believe that the uncovering of the scam involving fake native certificates bought by non-bumiputras was just the tip of the iceberg.
Officials said because anyone with native bloodline could be considered a native by Sabah's native definition laws, it has become easier for local Sabah non-natives to claim to be a descendant of a mixed marriage.
Sabah Sino Natives Association president Datuk Johnny Goh said syndicates could be involved in getting such native certificates as they would be entitled to buy native land and even open Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) accounts.
Earlier this week, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) arrested more than 30 non-native Sabahans with native certificates and froze 2,000ha of native land.
It also froze 14 individual ASB accounts worth RM10mil (S$3.6 m).
Most of those arrested claimed that their parents had obtained the native certificate for them and were unaware of it being fake.
Goh, the former Inanam assemblyman, said the MACC action was a right move as the fake cert holders were causing problems to genuine Sino-natives.
A lawyer said the legal process of re-taking such land from people who obtained it fraudulently could be complex.
"It not as easy as you are not entitled to buy native land,'' said a lawyer who is familiar with such cases.
He said the state would need to go back to the Native Court where the native certificate was allegedly issued and check if they were records.
"If not, then they will have go back to the High Court to declare that the buyer is not a native and not entitled to buy the land and as such, the sale will null and void,'' he added.
Sabah has frozen the issuance of native certificates since 1982.