PetroSaudi blackmail: Malaysians implicated

They allegedly got ex-PetroSaudi exec to falsify data, hurting 1MDB

MALACCA - Several Malaysians could be extradited to Bangkok to facilitate investigations into alleged doctoring of documents by former PetroSaudi International executive Xavier Andre Justo, who is being held by Thai police for alleged blackmail.

Justo, 49, was arrested on the Thai resort island of Samui on Monday for seeking 2.5 million Swiss francs (S$3.6 million) from PetroSaudi in exchange for not disclosing confidential company information, according to Thai police.

Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Thursday that the Malaysian individuals who could be sent to Thailand were believed to have asked Justo to manipulate certain data before it was fed to the Sarawak Report. The blog has been reporting alleged financial scandals by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund owned by Malaysia's Finance Ministry, by publishing data which it said came from whistleblowers.

"During interrogation, Justo mentioned the names of several Malaysians who supposedly asked to manipulate facts from the information that was downloaded from PetroSaudi's communication system," he told reporters at an event in Malacca.

"If the Thailand authorities have enough information, the probability of us extraditing any Malaysian personalities wouldn't arise, while on the other hand, we will know who these individuals are, if the request is made."

The arrest of the former PetroSaudi executive made headlines in Malaysia as the Saudi- based company and 1MDB were involved in a 2009 joint venture that Malaysia's opposition has blamed for starting the big financial losses at 1MDB. The venture ended six months later with both 1MDB and the government claiming the state fund was able to regain its US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) investment and make a profit of US$488 million.

The government is now using Justo's arrest and confession to Thai police, that he manipulated computer data before passing it on to the Sarawak Report blog, to show that accusations of financial mismanagement at 1MDB were all made up.

Adding to the saga, pro-government New Straits Times (NST) newspaper has quoted cyber security firm Protection Group International (PGI) as claiming that Justo was the source of the data published on the Sarawak Report, and that there was evidence of data tampering.

NST, in an exclusive front- page report on Thursday, said Justo's desire to fund a lavish lifestyle drove him to allegedly blackmail PetroSaudi.

Malaysia's opposition Democratic Action Party on Thursday asked 1MDB and PetroSaudi to make public the original versions of documents that British-based PGI said were tampered with.

And former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, whose attacks on Prime Minister Najib Razak are centred on alleged large- scale financial mismanagement at 1MDB, called Justo's arrest "suspicious" and said it "appears planned".

"What makes me puzzled is that he didn't commit a crime in Thailand. He committed the crime in Saudi Arabia," Tun Dr Mahathir said on Thursday. "Usually, other countries don't care unless he is a terrorist."

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2015, with the headline 'PetroSaudi blackmail: Malaysians implicated'. Print Edition | Subscribe