KOTA KINABALU - The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has seized 2,000ha of native land in the east coast of Sabah and frozen Amanah Saham Bumiputra accounts worth RM10mil bought illegally by non-natives.
The land and ASB shares were bought using falsified or fraudulent native certificates.
While the land in question was seized under the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act, a source close to the investigations said the ASB shares involved 14 individual accounts.
"So far, some 2,000ha of land involving more then 400 native titles have been seized and will be returned to the state government for appropriate action.
"The investigators are still screening the various native titles held by the non-bumiputras. We expect to uncover more such native lands being held by non-natives."
The source said a caveat would be put on such titles soon and it would be up to the state government to take the necessary action, as it could take back the land or have the current title holders pay the relevant premiums to convert the land reserved for natives for other purposes.
"So far, 34 people have been arrested and we expect the numbers to rise," the source said, adding that most of them had admitted to being neither a native nor a descendant of mixed native parentage.
"They have been cooperative. Some told investigators their parents had obtained the certificate for them when they were as young as five years old," the source said, adding that most of them were unaware that the native certificates were fraudulently obtained.
MACC is asking people holding falsified native certificates to come forward and aid in their probe.
Investigations began when MACC was tipped off about the purchase of native land by a non-native during a bank auction in Tawau. The land was bought for RM1.7mil and later resold for nearly double the price.
Investigators discovered many such holders of fake native certificates owning native lands, including one man with 300 native titles involving nearly 1,000ha.
But most of the non-natives, aged between 40 and 80, were aware that the documents were falsified.
The issuance of native certificates known as Sijil Anak Negeri was frozen by the state government on April 29, 1982, during the rule of the Berjaya government, and successive state governments have maintained the freeze.
The freeze was to check abuse as they found non-indigenous natives obtaining such certificates to acquire native land and other benefits given to native bumiputras in Sabah.
The certificates were previously issued by the Mahkamah Anak Negeri (Native Court) after the applicant's lineage was verified as a true native.
Under the current Interpretation (Definition of Native) Ordinance 1952, a native is classified as any person, both of whose parents are or were members of a people indigenous to Sabah, or any person ordinarily resident in Sabah and being and living as a member of a native community, one at least of whose parents or ancestors is or was a indigenous native.
There have been many calls for the government to lift the freeze on the issuance of native certificates, as many children of mixed marriages such as the Sino-natives could not prove their native lineage as they carried Chinese surnames.
The state government responded that it was still defining the term "native" for Sabah and talking to all stakeholders to determine what constitutes a native.