Ex-PetroSaudi exec Justo jailed 3 years

Swiss national Xavier Justo (right) being escorted from a Bangkok court yesterday. Documents, purportedly from him, showing financial mismanagement at 1MDB were published online in May.
Swiss national Xavier Justo (right) being escorted from a Bangkok court yesterday. Documents, purportedly from him, showing financial mismanagement at 1MDB were published online in May.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Original sentence halved after he confessed to blackmailing firm linked to 1MDB scandal

Swiss national Xavier Justo was sentenced to three years' jail by a Thai court yesterday over a blackmail case linked to a snowballing scandal involving the Malaysian government.

According to court officials, the 49-year-old former IT executive had his original sentence halved after he confessed to blackmailing his former employer PetroSaudi International.

Justo could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined up to 20,000 baht (S$800).

It is not clear whether he will appeal against his sentence.

His lawyer Pranot Kalanuson, who was not present in court but had sent a representative, declined to comment before speaking to Justo later this week.

The tall, bespectacled Justo, looking subdued in his brown prison garb, was transferred from jail to Bangkok South Criminal Court some time past 9am. At midday, he was led away from the courthouse by security officers, appearing slightly stooped as he remained silent in the face of reporters' questions.

PetroSaudi, an energy company, was involved in an aborted venture with Malaysia's state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in 2009. 1MDB, whose board of advisers is led by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, had racked up RM42 billion (S$15 billion) in debts in its first five years of operation.

According to Thai police, Justo demanded - but did not receive - 2.5 million Swiss francs (S$3.6 million) from PetroSaudi's chief executive when they met in Bangkok in 2013.

The company filed a complaint with the Thai police in May this year, after documents purportedly from Justo, and showing financial mismanagement at 1MDB, were published by online journalism website Sarawak Report. PetroSaudi also revealed that he was living in Koh Samui in southern Thailand.

Police arrested him on the resort island just one month later.

In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times while under remand, Justo revealed he was promised US$2 million (S$2.8 million) by Malaysian businessman Tong Kooi Ong, who owns The Edge Media Group, for the documents.

He further alleged that those he met regarding the sale of the documents, including Sarawak Report editor Claire Rewcastle-Brown, had talked about using the documents "to try to bring down the Malaysian government" and referred to plans to "modify the documents".

Yet, up until his arrest in June, the money did not arrive.

After the publication of Justo's revelations, Datuk Tong, in a joint statement with the group's publisher Ho Kay Tat, admitted they misled Justo into believing he would be paid, but said "that was the only way to get hold of the evidence to expose how a small group of Malaysians and foreigners cheated the people of Malaysia of US$1.83 billion".

Mr Tong said they did not steal anything or tamper with any e-mail or documents that were given.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-PetroSaudi exec jailed 3 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe