Sarawak Report is deeply saddened to inform of the tragic and untimely death of Taib Mahmud’s former aide in the United States. It is speculated that he may have taken his own life, but the Coroner is withholding judgement pending further investigations.
Ross Boyert, aged 60, was found with a bag tied around his head in a Los Angeles hotel room last week. He leaves a wife and daughter. He had worked for over 12 years as the sole manager of a number of the office blocks and residences owned by the Taib family in San Francisco, California and Seattle, Washington State. This included the FBI’s top security facility, the Abraham Lincoln Building in Seattle, for which Boyert had been given a maximum personal security clearance to enter.
Taib’s US property interests
As Sarawak Report has revealed in a series of recent exposes, Taib Mahmud himself is secretly the majority shareholder of the company Sakti International, which owned much of the real estate managed by Ross Boyert. Officially however, the shareholders were listed as Rahman, Mahmud and Jamilah Taib (his children), along with their uncles Arip and Onn Mahmud, the Chief Minister’s brothers. The sole Director of the Company was first Rahman (Sulaiman) Taib (Taib’s son), and then Sean Murray (his son in law).
Ross worked on a major programme of refurbishing and letting out the Taib properties, particularly a flagship office block at 260 California Street, in the centre of San Francisco’s financial district. When Boyert first came to the company it was failing under the management of youthful Rahman Taib (then still a student) and was facing serious debts. Ross was able to turn fortunes round, leaving Sakti with a net worth of US $80 million at the time of his departure in 2006.
Fall out with the Taibs led to Boyert’s destruction
Ross Boyert, who was known to be an ‘upbeat, sociable guy’, liked and respected by his staff, apparently saw the destruction of his dreams after falling foul of rivalries between Taib family members. Details of what happened to him are publicly laid out in a suit and counter-suit lodged in the records of the California Superior Court. These records provided some of the information behind Sarawak Report’s original exposes of Taib’s US property interests.
Sarawak Report has now also come into possession of an extraordinary, 188 page letter sent by Boyert to the Chief Minister himself in November 2006, begging Taib to intercede on his behalf, given his role as the real person in charge of the company.
The letter, addressed to ‘Chief Minister Datuk Padinggi tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud’ and FedExed to his residence in Singapore, begins:
“For 12 years I have endeavoured to fulfil my responsibilities as Chief Operating Officer at Sakti International Corporation in a loyal, confidential manner under the most trying of circumstances. During my tenure Sakti and its affiliates have profited greatly… I estimate the value of the holdings of the Group at US $80 million”
The letter goes on to explain in detail how, relying on an relationship based on close trust with Rahman, Boyert had gone to extreme personal financial risk and effort to rescue the failing business. In return Rahman had offered him a 50% stake in the profits, by then worth several million US dollars.
However, Boyert then explains his dismay when the Taib family reneged on the deal, once the company was secure. In 2006 Rahman was replaced as sole Director by Taib’s Canadian son-in-law Sean Murray, who then proceeded to sack Boyert without compensation.
Boyert brought a case for unfair dismissal and asked for his promised share of the profits. But, far from gaining Taib’s help and sympathy, Ross later said that the letter provoked a furious reaction against him.
“I was incredibly naive” Boyert told Sarawak Report, “I should have realised that by showing all that I knew about Taib’s involvement in the company I would present a threat in his eyes and invoke his revenge. We never realised that Taib’s wealth was illegitimate, we didn’t have Google in those days. We just assumed that, as the FBI had checked out the company and rented a maximum security facility from the Taibs, everything must be above board”.
‘Campaign to destroy the Boyerts’
After bringing the case against Sakti, thereby revealing the Taib family business interests in the States, the Boyerts claimed they then faced a relentless, well-funded campaign to undermine their reputation and to destroy them financially. Other victims of the Taibs’ business methods in Sarawak have testified that this is a regular strategy against former associates, particularly those ‘in the know’.
However, the Boyerts say they were innocent of the danger of taking the Taibs to a US court. The lawyers acting for the Taibs, a high-profile California firm, Howard Rice, warned the Boyerts in writing that if they took any action they would be treated ‘harshly’, but the couple say they failed to understand the implications.
“We thought it was a plain vanilla employment dispute and they would eventually give us some money to go away”, Ross explained. “Instead they unleashed the forces of hell on us”.
Over the ensuing years the Boyerts lodged several complaints of personal harassment against them with their local Atherton Police Station in San Francisco. They alleged that intimidation practiced against them included numerous incidents of tyre slashing, the destruction of their burglar alarm and CCTV surveillance systems and a series of break-ins to their home in which damage was inflicted, but little taken. On two occasions passports and birth certificates were burgled from their papers.
Previously, in 2001, the Boyerts has also suffered the firebombing of their car in their driveway. They put this down to neighbours who disapproved of their employers. They said this social ostracism had added to their problems.
Once the legal case had started the Boyerts also alleged they felt they were being followed. Despite frequent changes of mobile phone they would receive bizarre texts and on one occasion the phone rang out the tune by the group The Police, “I am watching you”. The Boyerts claimed their mobiles were also used as trackers by the people trying to intimidate them. When Sarawak Report journalists visited them in June this year they witnessed how the phone, after being switched off, repeatedly turned itself back on, which is a sign of so-called ‘cloning’ and a form of surveillance.
The Boyerts by that time were convinced that the purpose of these incidents had been to frighten and discredit them as fantasists. They ceased to report the incidents and in 2008 they said they agreed to drop their case in return for a commitment that there would be no further incidents of intimidation. However they claimed that the harassment had continued and produced photographs of men they believed were following them, saying the same faces would turn up in different places.
The Boyerts believed that this was intimidation sanctioned by the Taibs, however the police failed to be convinced by their ‘bizarre’ allegations. Other incidents they reported were sinister noises at night, occasions when Ross and later his teenage daughter were driven into the side of the road by aggressive drivers and one frightening incident when Ross’s wife was approached by a man in a restaurant who allegedly tampered with her drink, causing her to pass out on her daughter who had been accompanying her.
Sarawak Report has been able to establish that while the above incidents are unproven, the lawyers Howard Rice did hire a Private Detective Agency in California named Bruce Haskett and Associates, who approached many of Boyert’s key business associates. In the process of requiring information about suspected embezzlement and dishonesty on Ross’s part they succeeded in destroying his reputation for honesty among his business network.
One of Ross’s key referees has told Sarawak Report that the visit and surrounding rumours unnerved him and it diminished his willingness to provide a positive reference.
“When Ross asked me for a reference after that” explained Tom Williamson of the respected company Hathaway Dinwiddie “I would always keep it as brief as possible. He had always been completely honest in his dealings with our projects, but I felt uncomfortable about recommending him”
Williamson has acknowledged that his reticence would have undermined Ross’s later attempts to find work. He later withdrew as a referee. Another contact allegedly told Ross “You should hear what these guys are saying about you”. On a separate occasion the Prudential Insurance Company threatened to renege on a loan commitment to Sakti, because they said they had reason to understand that Ross would embezzle the money.
From plum job to desperate circumstances
By the time Sarawak Report came to interview the Boyerts in the summer of 2010, they were no longer eligible for social security payments after 2 years out of work. They had spent thousands on the court case and in the midst of the recession they could not sell their home to cover the costs.
In June 2010 the Boyerts’ multi-million dollar Atherton home was taken as part of a foreclosure agreement and sold to an anonymous buyer for a rock-bottom price. The Boyerts were bankrupted and forced to move into their daughter’s apartment in Costa Mesa, Southern California, where the rent was due to expire in one month.
Ross told Sarawak Report at that time that he felt he had “reached the end of the road” yet the couple still feared they were being harassed. A few days later their pet puppy died under what they believed was mysterious circumstances after being left alone at their flat.
A way out?
One month later, when the rent ran out, Ross Boyert made a first suicide attempt by driving into a tree near his old home. He claimed he had also been beaten up before the incident, but this was written off as a delusional memory caused by sleeping pills. The police were unresponsive to pleas for support. Friends of Sarawak Report have attempted to assist the Boyerts with their troubles in the ensuing weeks, but it is believed his depression had gone too far.
No state support in California
It is likely that the lack of any support from the California state agencies contributed to the pressures on Ross Boyert in the period before his death. He was denied welfare payments, but aged 60 in a recession could not find work. Moreover, Stanford hospital who had treated the first suicide attempt refused to continue to supply anti-depressants or counselling because of his inability to pay.
Despite this the hospital’s fee department constantly rang the family to demand payment of a $70,000 bill that they claimed Boyert had run up while involuntarily held at the hospital for 5 days following the car accident. The last of these calls were made to Ross two days before he died on Sunday of last week. His body was found in a motel room the next day.
When asked by Sarawak Report how he had been affected by the Taibs, Ross had earlier replied:
“They did to us what they did to the Borneo Rainforest, decimation, destruction, rape, plunder, betrayal. Ruination for ruination’s sake. I don’t see a future and that is absolutely what they wanted.”