In multiple investigations of the Malaysian 1MBD affair, new information has emerged that showcases a complex web of intrigue, subterfuge and corruption involving the self-identified whistleblower Xavier Andre Justo. Mr. Justo was previously jailed in Thailand for blackmail and extortion attempts against PetroSaudi International’s management and stole a database from the company that ended up being at the center of the scandal.
Accounts about the involvement of a former Swiss Attorney General, who is currently under investigation for political corruption in a separate matter with a conflict of interest connected to the case, and a litany of other diverse actors more befitting of a Hollywood thriller than real life circumstances, rounds up the new information made available after months of in-depth reporting.
Getting to the bottom of this complex affair has been challenging. Simply put, the middle management of companies involved in the 1MBD scandal were unwilling to speak on the record. The top tier executives of these companies will also not speak to the press. Last week, this publication finally found a disgruntled former executive of PetroSaudi International (the company that Mr. Justo stole the data from that opened the 1MDB flood gates) as well as two former friends of Mr. Justo’s who provided background on the man at the center of the scandal.
The former executive of PetroSaudi International spoke on condition of anonymity and also provided documents, copies of text messages, and other e-mails to support his claims that Xavier Justo, far from being a noble whistleblower, is a con-artist who has lived a life of luxury and has a history of drug abuse including “heavy drinking and a lot of cocaine.” He also bitterly lambasted PetroSaudi International for allowing Mr. Justo to rise in the company ranks despite his well-known extravagant lifestyle. These allegations were also confirmed by the two former friends of Mr. Justo who were both jilted by him in personal loans that were never paid back.
In February of this year, PetroSaudi International’s CEO Tarek Essam Ahmad Obaid, company Director Patrick Andrew Marc Mahony, and Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho were all indicted in Malaysia by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over the 1MBD scandal. At the time, the MACC proudly announced this in a press release and that all three accused had been put on Interpol’s Red Watch List. This publication, after investigating the claims and counterclaims between Mr. Justo and PetroSaudi International, has found no evidence to verify their placement on the Interpol list for these indictments. After checking Interpol’s online ‘Red Alert’ database, it has been confirmed that neither Mr. Obaid, Mr. Mahony nor Mr. Jho Low have been put on Interpol’s “Red Watch List”, and that they are not “wanted fugitives” as suggested by many media outlets (several attempts to reach the MACC for comment on this story were not responded to).
A closer look at Mr. Justo confirms, contrary to his public claims otherwise, he has no formal university education and during the mid-2000’s he had ownership interests in sordid clubs in Geneva’s red-light district: Le Platinum and Le Z Cube [https://www.letemps.ch/economie/riches-jeunes-vite-milliards-1mdb-ont-rendu-fous-deux-genevois]. As a result of his shady activities, in 2007, Mr. Justo’s offices were raided by the Swiss authorities due to suspicions of his connections to a narcotrafficking and contraband smuggling network in Spain led by notorious Spanish mobster Jose Alberto Aguin Magdalena also known as “Rubio de Aios” (businessman who acted as Sito Miñanco’s foreman). Mr. Justo was arrested by armed Swiss police officers during the raid and hauled off to jail to answer questions about his role in opening and managing bank accounts for the Sito Miñanco’s cartel. Mr. Justo served as a reference for Rubio de Aios and his gang in opening and managing relationships at three banks in Switzerland: BFI Genève (BFI), Bank Piguet and Cie, and Bank Pictetand Société Bancaire Privée, S.A. Mr. Justo was held for over 18 hours and subsequently released after he, according to former friends, cooperated with investigators and gave testimony against the members of the criminal gang he was working with.
Furthermore, one of the officers involved in the arrest and interrogation of Justo claims he wore a ‘wire’ after he was detained in order to implicate another friend in the matter. After this he was released without charge.
PetroSaudi International’s CEO Tarek Obaid, is a dual-citizen of Switzerland and Saudi Arabia and graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Prior to the 1MBD scandal Mr. Obaid had never been charged with a criminal offense in any country. According to the former PetroSaudi International Executive and former friends of Mr. Justo, Mr. Obaid met Mr. Justo when he was a 15 years old immigrant in Switzerland on a basketball court. They struck up a friendship as Justo himself is a descendant of immigrant parents. Justo acted as a big brother for Mr. Obaid, his peer in business and life in Switzerland during both of their youths. Years later, Mr. Obaid gave Mr. Justo lower level jobs to help him sustain himself and his family because of Mr. Justo’s unfortunate economic circumstances. In these jobs, Mr. Justo was employed in various positions as a doorman, a car valet, or handling small petty cash purchases for Mr. Obaid’s office and family members. Some media outlets and Mr. Justo’s own portrayal of himself on his CV claim he is an international banker. This is false: while he did work as a clerk in a couple of banks as a lower level employee, he was never a ‘banker’, neither has he held any senior position in any Swiss or other European bank.
At home, Xavier Andre Justo’s personal life was highly unstable, a fact which should have set off warning bells at PetroSaudi International years later. Mr. Justo was married to Daphné Smits for some years. According to friends of Mr. Justo, while he worked as a clerk at Banque Scandinave en Suisse (BSS) in Geneva, he had a romantic affair with his boss’s wife. A few months later Mr. Justo allegedly had another affair with the wife of his best friend. As he was caught in the act, his wife Daphné divorced him and she received a favorable settlement which depleted Mr. Justo of most of his assets. Then he started a romantic relationship with Laura (now his wife) who he met when she was a secretary at the BSS. According to his friends, at that time, Mr. Justo became heavily depressed and was afraid of retaliation by the narcotrafficking criminal gang. Mr. Justo, and his then girlfriend, Laura ran away to Thailand and (according to a former close friend) “stole all the money from his mother’s bank account to pay for the trip”.
After being in Thailand for several months, Mr. Justo contacted Mr. Obaid and told him he was suffering from a lack of income and was “desperate” to support his family. In mid-2010, after careful consideration, Mr. Obaid decided to give Mr. Justo another chance and offered him a new job with PetroSaudi International in London on the condition that Mr. Justo commit to stop his cocaine habit and alcohol abuse. Mr. Justo readily agreed.
With a hefty salary and favorable compensation package worth 400,000 British Pounds per year that included a fully paid luxury apartment in Mayfair, an upper-class neighborhood of London, Mr. Justo’s life took a turn for the better and his career was back on track. Mr. Obaid, who highly trusted his childhood friend, was focused on growing his international operations, and needed someone in London he could trust to sign corporate papers on his behalf, conduct routine office banking, and other mundane administrative functions when Mr. Obaid was not in town.
Further investigations of Mr. Obaid and Mr. Justo’s relationship reveal the unbelievable trust that the former put into the latter. This publication has viewed authenticated documents including a copy of Mr. Justo’s employment contract with PetroSaudi International (see excerpt of employment agreement below).
The former PetroSaudi International executive confirmed that within the company Mr. Justo was known to frequent high-priced London haunts in Knightsbridge and Covent Garden, two of London’s most exclusive areas. The former executive also added that he advised Mr. Obaid several times about Mr. Justo’s social behavior and ballooning expense accounts but that he (Mr. Obaid) “wouldn’t hear of it…Tarek trusted this guy since he was a kid but never really knew him… Mr. Obaid was immature, and had bad judgment when it came to childhood friends, it caused a lot of tension in the office…it was so damn stupid… I couldn’t take it anymore. That’s why I left PetroSaudi.”
According to court testimony and evidence provided by numerous witnesses, Mr. Justo’s work performance seriously deteriorated in late 2010 with several absences and alcoholic binges that included inappropriate behavior in the office. Then in the beginning of April 2011 he missed a flight from London to New York city where he was due to meet a major client as well as the shareholders of PetroSaudi International. Witnesses later confirmed that Mr. Justo was high on cocaine and highly intoxicated the night before the flight. When he failed to show up to the meeting in New York, he was summarily dismissed from his position.
It was later confirmed through a forensic investigation that Mr. Justo stole PetroSaudi International’s database and made the last download of the 90GB data dump 24 hours after he was fired over the phone. This is the date that the 1MBD scandal’s fuse was lit.
After his termination, Mr. Justo began threatening to reveal confidential information about PSI to private parties with a vendetta against the company in an effort to twist Mr. Obaid and PetroSaudi management’s arms into a severance agreement. Even though Mr. Justo was only employed by the firm for 11 months and was dismissed for moral turpitude, he was able to extort a $4.35 million dollar exit on the premise that he would dismiss all claims against the company. What would otherwise have been considered a generous severance package in any departure from a corporation, Mr. Justo converted a multimillion dollar exit agreement into his opening salvo aimed at taking the company down, including Mr. Obaid and the entire PetroSaudi International upper management.
According to bank records obtained by this publication, upon receipt of his severance Mr. Justo immediately transferred $4.1 million to an offshore account owned by Lidingo International LTD., beyond Swiss jurisdiction in order to evade paying the Swiss government’s tax bill.
He then went to back to Thailand to open a tanning salon, “Always the Sun,” in Koh Samui, a questionable venture, considering the thousands of tourists who bask in the radiance of the Thai sun on the beaches of the southeast Asian riviera. He then resumed his old ways, again threatening PetroSaudi and Mr. Obaid through e-mails for further payments, mainly to Patrick Mahony – the chief investment officer of the company. At this time Mr. Justo announced for the first time he had stolen all of PetroSaudi’s internal company documents and its database. Growing sick of the repeated extortion and blackmail attempts by Mr. Justo, PetroSaudi contacted the Thai authorities and reported the instances of blackmail and extortion being committed on Thai soil.
These efforts included Mr. Justo reaching out to the Malay opposition, at the suggestion of his friend Christian Frampton, and promising to deliver unpublished 1MDB documents that would help the opponents of the Najib government (then in power in Malaysia) oust the incumbent Prime Minister from office. Mr. Justo’s price to not sell the database to a third party was $3 million dollars, however he quickly realized Mr. Obaid would not submit to another extortion attempt. When Mr. Justo was confronted by a journalist about his willingness to become a whistleblower versus being paid, if PSI had actually capitulated to his demands and sent him funds, his response was uncertain: “I don’t know.”
While still negotiating with the Malay opposition, Mr. Justo was arrested by the Thai police and put on trial. After being confronted with overwhelming evidence, being convicted of attempted extortion, blackmail and the theft of PetroSaudi International’s database, Mr. Justo received a 3-year prison sentence in Thailand in 2015. He readily confessed to his crimes (https://www.letemps.ch/monde/confession-xavier-justo-jai-trahi).
Due to a general amnesty granted by the new King of Thailand upon his coronation, Mr. Justo was released from jail after serving half of his sentence. This is when Mr. Justo began to try to make a heel turn, in order to cover up and justify his past criminal activity and enact revenge against those who he deemed responsible for his incarceration.
He rebranded himself from a convicted criminal to an oppressed whistleblower arguing that he attempted to expose the alleged wrongdoings of the 1MDB fund, of which his former employer received investments from. This was the corporation that had previously employed him: PetroSaudi International. What he publicly credited as an exercise in providing information to the authorities, upon further examination, was actually a vengeance operation based in his inherent desire to again convert the stolen database by selling it to a foreign political party for profit.
Mr. Justo was introduced to members of the Malaysian opposition by his friend Christian Frampton and Kamal Saddiqqi, a businessman who was close to then head of the Malay opposition, Mahatir bin Mohamed. Mr. Justo had a two-pronged attack against PetroSaudi International and its corporate partners, which he sought to launch through the Sarawak report blog as the media arm of his salvo of data leaking and the provision of the PetroSaudi International database to the Malay politicians seeking to depose Prime Minister Najib Razak. When the Malaysian opposition took power, they facilitated the payment of an additional $2 million to Mr. Justo from the owner of the opposition’s main mouthpiece publication, The Edge.
The sum of money earned by Mr. Justo by extorting and converting PetroSaudi’s trade secrets and intellectually property comes to a healthy $6.35 million dollars. With all of this information now being brought to public light, Mr. Justo comes off as an extreme opportunist with a prior criminal history who used his position at PetroSaudi International, and his close friendship with CEO Tarek Obaid, for his own personal benefit. Unlike other instances of honest efforts to expose misconduct and scandals in the corporate world, the deeds of Mr. Justo were the result of selfish greed and ambition with “whistleblowing” serving as the veneer for his criminal profiteering at the expense of others.