Whistle-blower denies stealing data in 1MDB case

Ex-PetroSaudi director who was jailed in Thailand says key evidence was given to him

Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo got entangled in the 1MDB affair by having data on a deal between the Malaysian state fund and oil company PetroSaudi International.
Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo got entangled in the 1MDB affair by having data on a deal between the Malaysian state fund and oil company PetroSaudi International.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR • Since the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal broke in 2015, Xavier Andre Justo has been painted as the man who stole files and e-mails from his former employer PetroSaudi International to be sold to others.

But the 52-year-old, a key figure in the 1MDB scandal, said the evidence was actually given to him, and not stolen.


The Swiss said: "The most important thing is that those files... they were not stolen, they were given to me. And I gave them, without any kind of modification, alteration, adding or withdrawing. Those are the genuine files of the PetroSaudi server, which pretty much told the story of 1MDB and PetroSaudi."

According to the United States Department of Justice in a 2016 seizure order, officials at the Malaysian state fund - claiming it was investing about US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in a joint venture with the Saudi Arabian oil company - had transferred about US$700 million to an account not associated with PetroSaudi.

Justo, who was a director at PetroSaudi, got entangled in the affair by having data on the 1MDB-PetroSaudi deal. He was also believed to have shared information about 1MDB and PetroSaudi with the Sarawak Report news site.

He was arrested in Thailand and jailed in 2015.

He said in an interview with The Star newspaper that after his arrest, the deal presented to him was simple: Confess and the sentence will be light, otherwise it will be 10 years in one of the worst places to be jailed.


He said: "I had no choice and said: 'Okay. Give me the paper and pen, and tell me what you want me to write.' And that's what I did. So, I said I downloaded the data. They made me say I stole the data. But I never stole it."

He added his confession was dictated to him "by a UK citizen". Justo claimed his arrest was political in nature and a cover-up operation.

He was sentenced to three years' jail in Thailand, which he believes was excessive for the crime he was charged with.

He claimed he was visited by Malaysian government officials and that the government under then Prime Minister Najib Razak wanted to have him extradited to Malaysia. Support from Swiss diplomats in Thailand saved him from that and he was eventually pardoned twice by the King of Thailand.

He made headlines in Malaysia by uploading on his Facebook account a picture of him standing beside Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad after a meeting on Sunday.

On Thursday, Mr Justo gave a statement to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, believed to be about the PetroSaudi deal.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2018, with the headline 'Whistle-blower denies stealing data in 1MDB case'. Print Edition | Subscribe