Ex-exec's lavish lifestyle in spotlight

Ex-exec's lavish lifestyle in spotlight

BANGKOK - Thai police will have about two months to gather evidence against a former executive of PetroSaudi International after he was detained for allegedly attempting to extort money from his former employer.

Xavier Andre Justo, 49, was arrested on the Thai resort island of Samui on Monday for seeking 2.5 million Swiss francs (S$3.6 million) from PetroSaudi in exchange for not disclosing confidential company information, according to Thai police.

Justo has denied the allegations.

But Malaysia's New Straits Times (NST), in an exclusive front page report yesterday, said Justo's desire to fund a lavish lifestyle drove him to allegedly blackmail PetroSaudi - which in turn led to an ongoing political controversy involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). PetroSaudi and 1MDB carried out an energy venture in 2009.

Justo, according to NST, had it all: a luxury mansion in Koh Samui and a beautiful family. His social media accounts showed glimpses of his life - his eight-bedroom mansion with a tennis court and a swimming pool, where he lived with his wife and child, and shots of him showing his tattoos while posing on Harley Davidson motorbikes.

But not everything was as it seemed, said the NST report. After he was asked to leave PetroSaudi in 2011 for "behaving against the company's rules and regulations", he went to Thailand and tried to set up a consulting business and a sunbed tanning business.

Both ventures failed to take off, which apparently led Justo to resort to attempting blackmail.

Born to Spanish parents in Switzerland, he did not attend university, and went on to work in three banks over 12 years, in various roles.

After meeting influential figures from Saudi Arabia, Justo was reportedly offered a job as a senior administrator in Geneva. During that period though, sources said Justo's first marriage failed - and he apparently drank heavily and was often late for work.

He then quit his job and headed to Thailand, where he reportedly threw himself into a hedonistic lifestyle. Justo had a chance to get his career back on track when he received an offer for an executive administration role at PetroSaudi, a Saudi oil company, which included taking charge of IT.

Though he later lost that job, he received a substantial settlement payment under the terms of an exit agreement. He was, however, allegedly not satisfied with the amount and used his privileged access to the company's computer systems to copy confidential e-mail and documents.

Thai police reportedly have a series of written demands from Justo to his former employers promising to return the data if he was paid enough. The company refused, so Justo apparently looked for other ways to use the stolen information.

He passed data to Sarawak Report blog, which has published a series of allegations that part of the money invested by 1MDB in the venture with PetroSaudi has been siphoned out - something which 1MDB has denied. 1MDB has drawn criticism from lawmakers for borrowings that reached RM41.9 billion (S$14.9 billion) as of March last year.

Malaysia's central bank and auditor-general are among those probing the troubled company, while Prime Minister Najib Razak, who chairs its advisory board, has faced calls from former premier Mahathir Mohamad to step down over 1MDB's performance.

This article was first published on June 26, 2015.
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