KL tycoon fails in bid to strike out reply by ex-PetroSaudi exec

Mr Tong has failed in a preliminary bout of a suit brought by Justo against him and two others.
Mr Tong has failed in a preliminary bout of a suit brought by Justo against him and two others.

Media tycoon Tong Kooi Ong has failed in a preliminary bout of a High Court suit brought by Swiss national Xavier Justo against him and two others.

Earlier this month, the High Court rejected Mr Tong's application to strike out a reply made by Justo submitted to court in response to amended defence papers he filed in January.

Justo is suing Mr Tong, the owner of The Edge media group, and two others,demanding the return of two data storage drives said to contain information about global oil services firm PetroSaudi and its business partner 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Justo is the former employee of PetroSaudi who allegedly leaked details that led to claims that billions of ringgit were misappropriated at 1MDB, the Malaysian state investment fund.

Mr Tong's application, which was heard earlier this month before Assistant Registrar Li Yuen Ting, was dismissed with costs, according to a court order issued last week reflecting the outcome of the closed-door hearing.

The result means Justo, defended by lawyers Suresh Damodara and Clement Ong, retains the right to rebut the position taken by Mr Tong in his amended defence papers.

Justo claims to have handed over the two storage drives in Mr Tong's presence at a Fullerton Hotel meeting in February last year and alleges he was never paid the US$2 million (S$2.7 million) promised for them.

Mr Tong argues that the claims show no reasonable cause for action and should be struck off.

In amended defence papers filed by his lawyers Doris Chia and Wong Wan Chee in January, he added that Justo is not entitled to the drives, given that the data was reported as having been stolen from PetroSaudi.

Justo, 48, who worked for PetroSaudi International (UK) as an IT manager until 2011, is serving a three-year jail term in Thailand for blackmailing his former employer.

In a separate preliminary bout last December, Mr Tong succeeded in persuading the court to order that Justo place a $50,000 deposit as security for costs before the case is allowed to proceed further.

A closed-door High Court pre-trial conference was held yesterday. A pre-trial conference, conducted before an assistant registrar, manages the run-up to the eventual High Court hearing, monitoring timelines for documents to be submitted and ruling on interlocutory matters. The next pre-trial conference will be held next month.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'KL tycoon fails in bid to strike out reply by ex-PetroSaudi exec'. Print Edition | Subscribe