1MDB’s Early Players Are Finally Brought To Trial In Switzerland

UPDATE – We wrote too soon. The day after the below was published the Swiss court again postponed this belated prosecution to an unspecified date.

The courts in Switzerland have finally put a date on the long-awaited prosecution of two Swiss nationals identified at the very start of the unravelling of the 1MDB scandal for their role at 1MDB’s first ‘joint venture partner’, the company PetroSaudi.

Tarek Essem Obaid, who was at the time a 50% shareholder of the company together with Prince Turki bin Abdullah (son of the then King of Saudi Arabia), and his colleague and fellow director of PetroSaudi Energy & Trading, Patrick Mahony, will come to trial on February 12th in the Federal Swiss court in Bellinzona on charges of mismanagement of funds and “aggravated money laundering”.

A translation of the case summary sets out that the Swiss public prosecutor:

 “accuses both defendants of having hatched a plan to bring, on the basis of allegedly mendacious information, the board of the sovereign fund 1 Malaysia Development Berhad into a joint venture contract with the petroleum group PetroSaudi in 2009. According to the prosecutor the defendants acted in concert with a Malaysian investor with the aim of self-enrichment. This contract foresaw that in exchange for a shareholder participation in the joint venture the newly created 1MDB would provide liquidity of up to USD1 billion to PetroSaudi for its oil investments in Turkmenistan and in Argentina, with a value of 2.7 billion dollars; however, PetroSaudi did not actually own these assets.
After the contract was signed USD 700 million freed by 1MDB was to have been transferred to a company owned by a Swiss bank in the name of a company linked to the Malaysian investor with whom the co-defendants were collaborating. Several tens of millions of dollars would finally end up in the hands of the defendants via the company PetroSaudi, without serving the interests of the joint venture….. The prosecutor claims the defendants caused 1MDB to authorise further transfers for a total amount of USD830 million, in the context of an Islamic loan which succeeded the operation of the joint venture between 2010 and 2011. This sum was also embezzled. The defendants then laundered the embezzled amounts.”

This is, of course, a summary of the facts gradually teased out and reported on by Sarawak Report over months and years following the leak of PetroSaudi emails by one of the company’s later directors and whistleblower, Xavier Justo.

After aggressive denials and pushback, which included orchestrating the false imprisonment of Justo in a Thai jail for a full 18 moths, the two businessmen are now being held to account by the Swiss justice system nearly ten years later and long after the Malaysian courts convicted the former prime minister himself, who signed off on the deal after meeting with Tarek Obaid, Prince Turki and Jho Low on a yacht, the Alfa Nero, shortly after Najib took office in August 2009.

Prince Turki has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia on separate corruption charges since 2017.

Responding to the news Xavier Justo told Sarawak Report

“Now is the moment for Switzerland to show the world that financial crimes must be fought and criminals must be sent to prison, and Switzerland is no longer a harbour for stolen money.”

His full story has been released in his autobiography “Rendevous With Injustice” written together with his wife Laura.

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