Thai court jails Swiss man for oil firm blackmail bid
A Swiss man was jailed for three years in Thailand on Monday for attempting to blackmail a Saudi oil company over dealings with a scandal-mired Malaysian state firm, a court official said.
Xavier Andre Justo, 49, a former employee of little-known energy firm PetroSaudi International, pleaded guilty, according to the court official and a Thai police officer involved in the case.
"Initially he was sentenced to six years but it was reduced to three as he pleaded guilty," the official at the Bangkok criminal court that heard the case told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Justo claimed he had harvested sensitive company data before leaving PetroSaudi in 2011 and made several demands for around $2.5 million to return it, according to the police.
"He met a representative of the company in a Bangkok hotel and made the demand, which the company reported to us," the policeman told AFP, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
"We don't know what kind of information he had, or if he really had it."
Justo has been held on remand since his arrest on the Thai island of Koh Samui in June.
PetroSaudi is an oil and gas company with offices in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Switzerland.
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), an investment company launched in 2009 by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, has said it was involved in complex financial deals with PetroSaudi that year.
1MDB is owned by Malaysia's finance ministry, and Najib still chairs the company's advisory board.
A string of Malaysian and overseas investigative reports this year have alleged that hundreds of millions of dollars in 1MDB money went missing from the PetroSaudi deals.
1MDB has repeatedly rejected these accusations. Najib has also repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
PetroSaudi has similarly denied any wrongdoing.
A Wall Street Journal investigative report last month further revealed that nearly $700 million had been deposited into Najib's personal accounts.
Both Najib and 1MDB strongly deny the nearly $700 million came from the state investment firm.
Malaysia's anti-corruption agency and members of his Cabinet says the transfers were from unidentified donors from the Middle East.
Critics in Malaysia's opposition and the ruling party have pressed both 1MDB and Najib for full disclosure.
© 2015 AFP