In The Borneo Case, documentary filmmakers Erik Pauser and Dylan Williams spend five years intimately following the trail of an unlikely group of activists whose aim is to investigate how profits from the illegal logging that has annihilated more than 90% of the Malaysian Borneo Rainforest, have been money laundered into property portfolios all around the world.
The group, made up of an exiled tribesman, a historian, an investigative journalist and a flamboyant DJ overcome death threats and intimidation in their efforts to unravel what has been dubbed “the Greatest Environmental Crime in History” (ex British Prime Minister Gordon Brown).
One of the weapons of the group is to start an illegal pirate radio station called Radio Free Sarawak. In a country where the government has complete control of the media, the radio station allows them for the first time to inform the people about what is really going on.
This film starts in Montreal where former activist Mutang Urud lives in exile. As a result of his role in attempting to stop the illegal logging of his people’s lands, Mutang was tortured and imprisoned whilst his best friend Swiss activist Bruno Manser disappeared in the forest. Many suspect that he was murdered for opposing the logging.
Now more than 20 years later Mutang hears news from Radio Free Sarawak that forces him to face his fears and return to the country. Mutang learns of Government plans to build 12 Mega Hydropower Dams – one of which will completely drown the valley of his birth. Simultaneously, from their secret location in London, the journalists of the Radio Station, Clare Rewcastle, and DJ Peter Jaban seek to investigate what has happened to the billions of dollars of profits from illegal logging and from Dam building that has taken place during the 33 years that Taib Mahmud has been Chief Minister of the State.
When Mutang witnesses the destruction on the ground he is drawn back into the fold and together with the efforts of Clare and Peter we follow them on an international hunt for the missing money that sets them against the political elite of Malaysia. As they seek to unravel the network of global money laundering, members of the political elite come into their crosshairs, and the fallout from their findings begin to escalate.
A whistle-blower in LA gives the team concrete proof of how a major international bank has actively helped Chief Minister Taib Mahmud to purchase properties in the US. Taibs family even own the FBI building in Seattle. The whistle-blower is later found dead in a hotel room with a plastic bag tied around his head. As the investigation launched by the characters gathers momentum, Taib Mahmud unexpectedly announces his resignation as Chief Minister after 33 years in power.
As the film draws to a close, Clare Rewcastle uncovers evidence of even greater corruption that seems to implicate the Prime Minister of Malaysia himself. In what has subsequently been dubbed ‘the greatest financial scandal in the World (The Guardian), the 1MDB affair leads to over 600.000 people taking to the streets of Kuala Lumpur in protest, whilst in the US the Department of Justice launched lawsuits to recover more than $1.3bn of stolen assets that had been funnelled through the American financial system. In the press conference announcing the lawsuits US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, called it “the largest kleptocracy case” in US history.
The film is produced by AMP film and co-produced with Truth Department, Bökamp & Kriegsheim, Red Rebel Films and Film Sant & Usant with the support of SVT, SFI, DR2, DFI, NRK, NFTVF, IKON, Ffilm Cymru Wales, ZDF Arte, Influence Film Foundation, Fritt Ord, Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme of the European Union, PMA Worldview and BERTHA/Britdoc.