This weekend Sarawak Report’s London lawyers sent an urgent letter via email to the “cyber intelligence” firm hired by the company PetroSaudi International (PSI) and quoted in the New Straits Times.
They asked for confirmation on the remarks attributed to them in two articles by the New Straits Times last week, in their ‘exclusive’ reporting on the arrest of Xavier Justo in Thailand.
The company has responded by saying they cannot say whether or not they made these statements to the New Straits Times without getting permission from their clients who are none other than PetroSaudi International, who are themselves under several investigations regarding the disappearance of millions of ringgit from 1MDB.
So, how is the government to rely on alleged statements from PGI, when the firm is not prepared to confirm whether or not they made them without permission from this interested party?
In short PGI are not prepared to publicly go on the record and confirm that any of its employees made these remarks to NSI.
We publish these communications below:
Letter from Reed Smith LLP, London
We act for Clare Rewcastle-Brown, who as you will be aware is an investigative journalist and the founder of the Sarawak Report.
We are writing to you with regard to two articles which appear in the New Straits Times Online and which can be accessed via the following links:
Thai police nab PetroSaudi ex-staff over attempted extortion :www.nst.com.my/node/89480
Who is Xavier Andre Justo: www.nst.com.my/node/89623
The following passage appears in the first article:
An international cyber-security firm, Protection Group International (PGI), was subsequently hired to conduct an in-depth investigation into the source of the data published on the Internet, as well as verify its authenticity.
These investigations revealed clear evidence of the systematic theft of confidential company data by Justo prior to his departure from PetroSaudi. Furthermore, the analysis also showed that the data was tampered with after it was stolen from PetroSaudi.
It was believed that much of this tampered data subsequently appeared on Sarawak Report and served as the backbone of the blog’s claims of impropriety against 1MDB.
An expert from PGI said: “Our investigation is still ongoing, but it is clear that we are looking at a case of large-scale data theft, and our analysis substantiates that Justo is the source of the data published on Sarawak Report.
“For example, when we looked into a PowerPoint file that was on one of the Sarawak Report’s blogs, we found evidence in the metadata of that file that it had been handled by a certain “xavierj” in 2013; two years after Justo left PetroSaudi, and four years after the file had originally been created by a law firm that advised PetroSaudi.
“It is also clear that the stolen data sets are incomplete, and underwent an editing process after they were removed from PetroSaudi’s systems, and before they were published on the Internet. There are many inconsistencies between the published data and the data which still exists on files within PetroSaudi relating to that period of time. Simply put, it is incomplete data, creatively selected and edited to fit a desired narrative.
“These cases are all too familiar and we have unfortunately dealt with so many of them; where a greedy or malicious employee removes confidential data and threatens to publish it, or has it published, for personal gain – financial or otherwise. Published data then invariably goes through selective editing, and not infrequently plain forgery, in an attempt to up the ante and create the most damaging story possible.
“This case is an almost textbook match to that profile. PetroSaudi, like many companies, individuals or even governments that we have seen before them, and no doubt will continue to see after them, will suffer unfair scrutiny caused by a misinformed online onslaught. In this case, what started out as a simple story of personal gain by a former employee, became a story of politically-motivated allegations through the use of irresponsible online blogs.
“All of the investigations we have conducted thus far would lead me to say that, from both a forensic and expert perspective, the information [relating to this issue] published on the Internet should be considered unsafe and unreliable by those wishing to draw conclusions from it,” he said…
Meanwhile, PGI said it will hand over further evidence to the authorities as its inquiry continues into how PetroSaudi’s computer files were accessed and edited.
Similarly, the second article states that:
PGI has confirmed that documents on The Sarawak Report have been creatively altered.
Please confirm by return:
Reed Smith LLP
Response from “Becky” at PGI
“Thank you for your enquiry, please be advised we take client confidentiality very seriously and do not reveal any details about the work we do for any client, without their agreement”.