Ex-PetroSaudi exec seeks suspension of jail term

Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo, 49, being escorted by Thai officials as he leaves a courthouse in Bangkok on Aug 17, 2015. The Swiss man was jailed for three years in Thailand on Aug 17 for attempting to blackmail Saudi oil company PetroSaudi Inte
Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo, 49, being escorted by Thai officials as he leaves a courthouse in Bangkok on Aug 17, 2015. The Swiss man was jailed for three years in Thailand on Aug 17 for attempting to blackmail Saudi oil company PetroSaudi International over dealings with a scandal-mired Malaysian state firm, a court official said. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK • Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo has asked Thailand's Appeals Court to suspend the three-year prison term handed to him in August for the attempted extortion of his former employer PetroSaudi, which is embroiled in a scandal involving Malaysian state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Justo's lawyer, Mr Worasit Piriyawiboon, filed the appeal yesterday, the Bangkok Post reported.

Justo, 49, had demanded 2.5 million Swiss francs (S$3.7 million) from PetroSaudi in exchange for him keeping information relating to 1MDB's corruption case under wraps. PetroSaudi, an energy company, was involved in an aborted venture with 1MDB in 2009. The company refused pay Justo.

Documents allegedly showing financial mismanagement at 1MDB, and purportedly from Justo, were later published by online journalism website Sarawak Report. Justo was arrested in Koh Samui in June.

His lawyer argued in the appeal, according to the Bangkok Post, that Justo should have been charged under Section 337 of the Thai Criminal Code, which refers to an attempt to blackmail, as he did not receive payment from PetroSaudi. He was instead charged under Section 338, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

"The maximum under Section 337 is one year in prison and, with his confession, Justo should get the jail term reduced by half.

"With no previous criminal record, it should then be suspended," said Mr Worasit.

"Also, the information that was claimed to cause damage was falsified by other people, not my client."

Mr Worasit also said he will seek to have Justo released on bail next week, pending the outcome of the appeal, reported the Bangkok Post.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-PetroSaudi exec seeks suspension of jail term'. Print Edition | Subscribe