It was to be a highlight of their official Diamond Jubilee tour on behalf of the Queen, a trip deep into the heart of Borneo to see one of its last areas of virgin rainforest.
In doing so, however, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose nine-day tour of Asia and the South Pacific started yesterday, are being propelled into the first diplomatic row of their fledgling royal careers.
A week ago, the politician hosting their visit, the chief minister of Sabah, was implicated by Swiss authorities in a criminal investigation into alleged laundering of $100 million in profits from illegal logging.
Environmental groups had alleged that Swiss bank UBS handled vast sums for the region’s top politician, Musa Aman. The chief minister has been instrumental helping to arrange William and Kate’s trip.
Prince William is particularly keen to see the work being done by the Royal Society to protect the precious ecology of the Danum Valley in the state of Sabah.
Musa is a controversial figure in Malaysia, accused by many of taking ‘kick-backs’ from illegal loggers. The issue over Musa prompted a demonstration outside St James’s Palace.
A protestor said: “We urge William and Catherine to avoid meeting Musa as it will give the wrong message to the world.” St James’s Palace said, “Their primary reason for wishing to visit Sabah owes itself to the Duke’s interest in conservation.”
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