The Borneo Case
Year of production: 2016
In the Swedish documentary, 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 on 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 Radio Free Sarawak – a pirate radio station. Suddenly in a country were the government keeps a tight control of media, people get news and for the first time get information on what’s going on. This film starts in Montreal where former activist Mutang Urud lives in exile. After enduring torture and imprisonment for his role in attempting to stop the illegal logging of his people’s lands, the Kelabit tribesman was forced to flee more than 20 years ago.
However when he hears a podcast from an illegal radio station – Radio Free Sarawak – of plans to build 12 New Hydropower Dams – one of which will completely drown the valley of his birth, He is compelled to travel home.
Simultaneously, from its 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 the illegal logging.
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 money trail that sets them against the political elite of Malaysia.
As they seek to unravel the network of global money laundering at the heart of the logging industry members of the political elite who have benefitted from logging come into their sights and the story takes an unexpected turn as the fallout from their findings begins to have major consequences. As a result of the investigation launched by the characters in the film over 600.000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur in protest at high level corruption, whilst the Borneo State leader Abdul Taib Mahmud unexpectedly announced his resignation after 33 years in power.
After the completion of the film the ongoing investigation into corruption has continued and led the US Department of Justice to launch lawsuits to recover more than $1.3bn of stolen assets that had been funneled 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.
Director and Producer: Erik Pauser / Dylan Williams