Swiss man admits to part in Malaysia smear campaign

PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

A police investigation into a Swiss suspect, who is being detained in Thailand on blackmail charges, has revealed that his network planned to use distorted information to attack a neighbouring country's government through media in Europe as part of a smear campaign, police spokesman Maj-General Prawut Thavornsiri said yesterday.

Xavier Justo's accomplices include the media and a former key politician of this neighbouring country. Though Prawut did not identify the neighbouring country, it is widely understood that he was referring to Malaysia.

Justo, a former PetroSaudi International executive, was arrested in Surat Thani's Koh Samui on June 22 for allegedly trying to extort 2.5 Swiss Francs (about Bt90 million) from PetroSaudi in exchange for not disclosing confidential information.

Prawut said Justo confessed and handed in all information and evidence, including e-mails and messages via WhatsApp, which revealed that the suspect was part of a network that planned to sell this distorted information to discredit the government of this neighbouring country.

"We also found that the suspect's network included the press and a former key politician from this country," the spokesman said, adding that the suspect had received payment for this information in Singapore.

In his confession, Justo provided dates, times and venues of the meetings, which Prawut said had been cross-checked and found to be correct.

This was believed to be part of a plot to discredit Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak by using false information about 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state development fund chaired by Najib.

Previously, officials from this neighbouring country had asked Thai police for information, which it could not provide at that time because the investigation was ongoing, the police spokesman said.

"Now they can seek information on the case through the embassy," he said.

As of press time, Justo was still in detention at the Bangkok Remand Prison. Earlier, it had been rumoured that police had handed the suspect over to their Malaysian counterparts.

After Justo was arrested, a statement from PetroSaudi said the firm was relieved that the suspect would now face justice through the courts and that it had been the victim of a regrettable crime that had been politicised in Malaysia. "We are happy to finally set the record straight and we apologise to the Malaysian people for the harm that one of our unscrupulous ex-employees has caused to them," the statement read.