Justo: M’sian authorities among parties who coerced my guilty confession

By RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By BERNAMA

Malaysian government personnel, believed to have acted under the directive of certain personalities from the previous administration, were among the parties that were claimed to have coerced PetroSaudi International Ltd’s former director Xavier Justo (picture) to admit that he blackmailed his former employer regarding “stolen” 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-linked correspondence.

Justo, who claimed to have been visited by three Malaysian officers when he was in the Bangkok prison in 2015, said the admission was subsequently used to conceal the multibillion 1MDB scandal.

He claimed that the three officers also presented him with 55 questions and scripted answers to essentially “extort his guilt”. He said the questions were given to him a day prior to the meeting.

“The Malaysian authorities had not only blocked my (prison) transfer to Switzerland in September 2015, but they also tried to extradite (me) to Malaysia.

“However, thanks to the Swiss authorities, that was not the case,” Justo said at the 10th International Conference on Financial Crime and Terrorism Financing 2018 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Justo said he was dictated to confess that, among others, he had stolen and manipulated the data, and that he was working with then Malaysian Opposition parties with the help of a journalist.

He was also coerced to say that the PetroSaudi-1MDB deal was legitimate.

The Swiss national also said that he met Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, the central figure in the 1MDB scandal, twice and described the Penang-born financier as “nothing like a brilliant or party-lover man”.

Justo said their meetings were casual, once in London and another in the South of France.

“It never struck me that he is a brilliant guy. He was very modest and quiet,” he said.

Justo’s leak over the 1MDB scandal was the pivotal moment that led to the fallout of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

In the tell-all session, he denied that the 227,000 email correspondences were stolen by him. Instead, they were given to him by an IT consultant friend who worked for PetroSaudi.

He said the data was instructed to be erased by PetroSaudi to cover any association to the 1MDB scandal.

In March 2011, Justo resigned out of worry. The company director, Patrick Mahony, had agreed to pay him about 6.5 million Swiss francs (RM27.03 million) in severance.

However, Justo claimed that his severance package was reduced to four million Swiss francs, partly due to the advice by one of the company’s two founders, Tarek Obaid.

Justo had shared the data on 1MDB with Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown, who subsequently posted a shocking exposé on the portal.

Additionally, he also relayed the information to The Edge’s publisher Ho Kay Tat.

Both Rewcastle-Brown and Ho claimed that they did not pay anything for the documents.

PetroSaudi and 1MDB ran an energy joint venture worth US$2.5 billion (RM10.46 billion) from 2009 to 2012, an agreement that was inked during a visit by former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak to Saudi Arabia in September 2009.

However, the deal was merely a “pretence” for “the fraudulent transfer of more than US$1 billion from 1MDB to a Swiss bank account” controlled by Low — “a 29-year-old with no official position with 1MDB or PetroSaudi”, according to the US Department of Justice. PetroSaudi had maintained that all 1MDB funds were paid to entities owned by its shareholders.

Obaid was the one who had introduced Low to Mahony.

Justo was arrested by the Thai police at his house in Koh Samui on June 22, 2015, and spent 18 months in jail.