ZURICH, March 20 (Reuters) - Swiss prosecutors are reviewing
a criminal complaint filed against two former colleagues and an
alleged accomplice by Xavier Justo, a former director of energy
group PetroSaudi International Ltd and a key figure in the 1MDB
Justo told Reuters he was trying to clear his name after
being jailed in Thailand for blackmailing his former employer
over its ties to the scandal-hit Malaysian state fund 1MDB, with
which it ran an energy joint venture from 2009 to 2012.
The blackmail allegation arose from Justo's demanding money
from PetroSaudi and threatening to make public information he
gleaned from his time at the company.
PetroSaudi, which was not itself a subject of the complaint,
responded through its lawyers that Justo was merely trying to
"deflect attention from his own wrongdoing".
It was documents that Justo leaked after he left PetroSaudi
in 2011 that triggered investigations in at least six countries
into alleged theft of assets from the 1Malaysia Development
Berhad (1MDB) fund.
The documents raised suspicions about how funds at the
venture were used and prompted investigators to probe suspicions
that money had been siphoned off from the joint venture.
A total of $4.5 billion was misappropriated by high-level
officials of 1MDB and their associates, according to civil
lawsuits filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up 1MDB in 2009 and
served as chairman of its advisory board. He and the fund have
denied any wrongdoing.
Justo was freed from a Thai prison in an amnesty in
2016. Now he alleges that his confession came under pressure
from PetroSaudi executives and their allies -- including public
relations officials and a fake London police detective -- to
cover up facts in the scandal.
The Swiss Office of the Attorney General confirmed it had
received Justo's criminal complaints and was reviewing them,
declining to comment further.
PetroSaudi has denied wrongdoing in connection with the 1MDB
venture and said it would cooperate fully with authorities.
Asked for comment on Justo's allegations, PetroSaudi's
lawyers released a statement saying he was only repeating claims
that contradicted his previous admissions.
"Our client did not take any steps to force him to make a
false confession. He confessed to blackmail because the evidence
against him was overwhelming and incontrovertible," it said.
They questioned why Justo had gone public with his criminal
complaint at a weekend news conference only months after
approaching Swiss authorities.
"It seems to our client that the timing of this press
conference suggests it has been carefully orchestrated to
coincide with the upcoming elections in Malaysia, when Prime
Minister Razak will be seeking re-election," they said.
Justo said Swiss authorities had asked him to delay filing
charges to avoid interfering with their existing
The complaints that he and his wife brought against
PetroSaudi co-founder and chief executive Tarek Obaid,
ex-PetroSaudi director Patrick Mahony and Briton Paul Finnigan
include making threats, blackmail, extortion, endangering the
lives of others, slanderous denunciation, misleading justice,
They could not be reached immediately for comment.
Justo was sentenced to three years in prison in Thailand in
2015 on charges of blackmail and attempted extortion after what
he now says was a confession made under pressure from his former
PetroSaudi colleagues and their associates including Finnigan,
who Justo says posed in Thailand as a detective from London's
"The deal (with his former colleagues) was 'Cooperate, give
them whatever they want ... and you will be out before Christmas
2016', so I confessed," he told Reuters. "It was a set-up."
Justo denied in the interview that he had tried to blackmail
PetroSaudi, saying he was simply trying to recover the balance
of a 6.5 million Swiss franc settlement agreed when he left the
company in 2011.
(Reporting by Michael Shields
Editing by Gareth Jones)
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