Switzerland’s Le Temps newspaper has today cited Swiss official sources as confirming that Malaysia’s Najib Razak took the opportunity of his official visit to Thailand and key talks on border cooperation, in order to personally interfere in the case of Swiss national Xavier Justo.
Justo is a key witness in the 1MDB scandal, which has now directly implicated Razak in stealing billions from Malaysia’s development fund and diverting much of the money into his own personal bank accounts in KL.
The US Department of Justice has traced much of the rest of the stolen cash to key co-conspirators, in particular Najib’s proxy in 1MDB, Jho Low, and also his stepson Riza Aziz, who bought multi-million dollar properties and funded the film Wolf of Wall Street with the money.
Jho Low, who was named in the DOJ indictment and has remained a fugitive from Malaysia for at least a year, also attended the talks in Thailand, according to Le Temps.
The news confirms that Najib is seeking to make this witness against him into a political prisoner in a third country. It is also plain he is prepared to use the Malaysian national interest in cross border negotiations as a bargaining chip to get his way.
Thailand is desperate to build a wall between the two territories to counter terrorists and is also interested in a high-speed rail link to Singapore. It has now been learnt that Najib had sought as part of any deal to force the Thais to extradite Justo on spurious legal grounds to Malaysia!
The gambit was made by the Malaysian Prime Minister at a top level meeting with the Thai Premier, but was apparently rejected, not least on the grounds that the Swiss and also American authorities have been pressing for Justo to be allowed to serve the remainder of his controversial sentence back home in Switzerland.
Under the well established terms of bi-lateral agreements on prisoner transfers between the two countries, Justo should by now already have been released by the Thais in any case. Private assurances have been given to the Swiss that the transfer would take place before the middle of the month.
However, the thwarted Najib is understood to have demanded that if he could not lay hands on Justo then the Thais must at least prevent the Swiss recovering their national either! Yesterday, he appeared to have achieved his end as the Thai authorities signalled to the Swiss that under amended rules they considered him no longer eligible for release (his remaining sentence now being less than a year).
The U-turn is believed to have caused consternation and fury in Berne, where the Swiss Government plainly now regard their national as being held as a political prisoner for criminal reasons.
The case against Justo has now been exposed as highly flawed, in that he was forced into a confession by his accusers from the company PetroSaudi, who are highly implicated in the 1MDB case and who were allowed undue interference in the case.
Both the Swiss and the Thai authorities, who were previously led to believe that Justo had attempted to extort money and was involved in forging data, now realise that his disclosures were correct and have provided vital evidence exposing major thefts from the Malaysian public purse.
According to Le Temps, if Justo remains a victim of Malaysia’s cover-up, his Swiss lawyers have made clear that there will be open protests at the highest level. The Swiss Foreign Minister has himself indicated that he is willing to fly personally to Bangkok on an unprecedented mission to demand the return of their national, say sources of Le Temps.
Such a move would undoubtedly provoke world headlines and be bad news for Thailand’s reputation as a safe tourism destination. It would also damage the long-standing relationship with the Thai King’s favourite European country.
But, it is clear that on this issue the Swiss, together with the Americans, are serious.
What Najib had planned to gain by extradition can only be surmised.
Judging by Malaysia’s past treatment of prisoners with evidence against Najib, showcase apologies are likely to have been extracted in the run-up to the next election. Doubtless also, Justo would be tried under the panoply of new ‘anti-terror’ laws and the legislation against ‘activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy’ (eg embarrassing the Prime Minister) which can allow imprisonment for 20 years.
The Swiss are plainly deeply anxious that Najib will continue to attempt to extract this witness against him from neighbouring Thailand, in a case that looks set to pitch western democracies and legal systems up against Najib’s now arbitrary government in Malaysia.
Read a translation of the Le Temps article below:
During an official visit to Bangkok the Malaysian Head of State Najib Razak cut short the transfer procedure of Xavier Justo, the Genevois responsible for triggering the theft of the century case in Southeast Asia. It has forced all hands to a diplomatic battle within the Swiss authorities
Xavier Justo, the star witness in a case of misappropriation of Malaysian public money, was on the verge of getting his transfer from the Asian prison to Switzerland. Thai authorities have finally decided to keep him in his cell in Bangkok. Reason given: the Genevan has no more than a year to serve.
“My reading of this decision is that it derives more from political rather than legal considerations. I thank the Swiss authorities still have avoided the worst, “says Christian Lüscher, Xavier Justo’s lawyer. The worst? According to our information, it appears that Thailand yielded to Swiss pressure not to deliver the Genevan prisoner to Malaysia, where his life was endangered. But not to lose face with its main regional partner, Bangkok would in return reject his request for transfer to Switzerland.
The green light for the transfer of Xavier Justo, by virtue of a bilateral agreement existing between Switzerland and Thailand, was due on 31 August. The deadline was extended by two weeks. Finally the verdict did not arrive until Friday. Was that owing to it being the day after the departure of Prime Minister Najib Razak after the official visit to Bangkok or coincidence? Our sources indicate that the strong man of Kuala Lumpur was accompanied by Jho Low, a central character in this vast matter of alleged corruption and whose identity appears in particular in the investigation of the US court documents.
According to our information, Berne is ready to send out the big guns, diplomatically speaking, to attempt to gain reason from Thailand. It would notably include sending Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter personally over to Bangkok.
Xavier Justo had drawn from the server of the company PetroSaudi compromising data related to the financial scandal of the Malaysian fund 1MDB, which he delivered to the press. He was sentenced to three years in civilian prison for having, according to Thai justice, tried to blackmail his former employer. The former Director of the multinational company in Geneva had received, after his transfer request, a halving of his sentence for good behavior (royal pardon).
For her part, Laura Justo, who gave up everything to Thailand to seek refuge in Switzerland, claims innocence on behalf of her husband. She accuses PetroSaudi of extorting false confessions from her husband and to have threatened retaliation against her if she spoke out about it.