Key Figure in 1MDB Scandal Freed From Thai Prison

  • Justo sentenced in 2015 for attempted extortion of Petrosaudi
  • Immigration police preparing to deport Justo to Switzerland

A key figure in the corruption scandal at 1Malaysia Development Bhd. has been released from a Thai prison and is awaiting deportation to Switzerland, his lawyer said.

Xavier Justo was sentenced in August 2015 to three years by a Bangkok court for attempting to blackmail his employer, Saudi oil explorer PetroSaudi International Ltd., over ties to 1MDB in a verdict later cut to two years. He was released from prison Tuesday after qualifying for a widespread royal pardon handed by Thailand’s new king, said Worasit Piriyawiboon, the Swiss citizen’s lawyer.

He said his client was being held by immigration police until paperwork for his return to Switzerland could be prepared -- a process that could take a day or two -- but the legal proceedings in Thailand were complete.

"Now he is free," Worasit said. "The case is finished."

Swiss, U.S. and Singaporean authorities are investigating allegations that more than $3 billion was diverted from 1MDB, originally intended as an investment fund to foster economic development across Malaysia. Officials at 1MDB and others, under the pretense of investing about $1 billion in a joint venture between 1MDB and PetroSaudi, instead transferred about $700 million to an account not associated with PetroSaudi, the U.S. Justice Department alleged in July.

PetroSaudi at the time said it was not party to the claim brought by U.S. prosecutors and “is not, as far as it is aware, the subject of any investigation in any jurisdiction.” Representatives for 1MDB have denied any wrongdoing.

Six months before Justo was arrested on charges of extortion, he had shared reams of data on PetroSaudi, including 227,000 e-mails that chronicled discussions with 1MDB, with a freelance journalist named Clare Rewcastle Brown, according to the Guardian. Brown’s Sarawak Report helped bring to light some of the allegations used in the U.S. investigation.

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