"Clare's dogged (and to some, more that a little annoying) persistence and an incredible nose for the fishy stuff, uncovered the heist of the century. The explosive exposés rocked the nation, and precipitated the fall of the Malaysian government for the first time in 60 years."
Tony Pua, Member of Parliament for Damansara, Malaysia
Investigating the deforestation of Sarawak, Borneo, and the dispossession of its people, journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown followed a trail of corruption that led her to the heart of Malaysian politics and to Prime Minister Najib Razak himself. Determined that the public should know the truth, she started a blog, which became Malaysia's go-to news outlet for information that the government was trying to suppress – and whistleblowers wanted to get out. She was soon running a radio station too...
Full story in The Sarawak Report book to be launched on September 8, 2018
PetroSaudi Director, Patrick Mahony: “I told you who is controlling this…It is his ultimate nightmare that Xavier could turn on him if he gets out. This is his position at the moment.
Laura Justo: “So what do I say to Xavier about getting out – you told me December?
Mahony: “This guy is still stressed it’s his political career on the line, he’s in deep shit and that’s all he thinks about”.
L: so what do I say?
P:The only way I can show him you are on his side, a team player, is if you are ready to put yourself in the media – you must denounce all the people that are making conspiracies against him.. we are all in deep shit. I told you the other day. I am in deep shit and a Prime Minister of a country is in deep shit because of this … he [Xavier Justo] didn’t have to do that”
[translated telephone conversation between Laura Justo and PetroSaudi Director Patrick Mahony 2nd November 2015]
Najib’s political prisoner in Thailand and the original whistleblower on the 1MDB scandal is the Swiss national, Xavier Justo.
For a year he and his wife kept silent about their true situation, because they say they were terrorised by threats against his life in jail and blackmailed into cooperation by directors of 1MDB’s business partner, the oil company PetroSaudi, in return for false promises of an early release.
Laura Justo has now fled Thailand with their baby and with her husband’s permission she has spoken exclusively to Sarawak Report and also the UK’s Guardian Newspaper about the family’s shocking ordeal.
The Justos have also provided a mass of evidence to prove that the entire operation to jail Xavier and then to manipulate him in an attempted 1MDB cover-up was orchestrated by company directors of PetroSaudi, 1MDB’s joint venture partner in the conspiracy to steal over a billion dollars from Malaysia, as revealed by the United States Department of Justice last week.
Recorded emails, texts and conversations make clear that the PetroSaudi directors were acting in collaboration and on behalf of their co-conspirator, whom they clearly identify in taped conversations as the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak.
Details from this shocking story include the revelations that Justo was blackmailed into signing a forced confession without being allowed his lawyer present; that the self-damning confession was written by a British employee of PetroSaudi in the absence of any Thai officials or police; that the PetroSaudi Director Patrick Mahony, the man who had made all the accusations against Justo, was nevertheless allowed exclusive access to him in jail and to supervise all Justo’s contacts and conditions; Mahony in turn said the situation was being ultimately “controlled” by Najib.
Furthermore, the Swiss lawyers, Singapore lawyers, original Thai lawyers and Swiss PR team, who were supposed to be representing Justo, were in fact hired and controlled by PetroSaudi in a blatant conflict of interest, in order to conduct a legal and media offensive to discredit Justo, Sarawak Report and the Edge Newspaper, which had all printed truthful information about 1MDB’s connivances with PetroSaudi, as has now been fully vindicated and confirmed by the DOJ indictment.
Yet, even thought this information is now known to the Swiss, US and Thai authorities, Xavier Justo remains in jail in Thailand and his conditions have recently been made harsher at the behest of Najib and PetroSaudi.
Now that the truth has been confirmed about 1MDB and the role of PetroSaudi in this multi-billion dollar theft against Malaysia, Sarawak Report demands that the whistle-blower in this whole affair, who was jailed solely on the testimony of this corrupted oil company and a confession forced upon him by their employees, should be released.
Indeed, so poor was Justo’s representation that his lawyer (retained on advice of PetroSaudi) failed to turn up at his trial to defend him.
The Swiss authorities and the Swiss media, who have apparently done so little so far to support Justo, must now campaign for justice for their own citizen.
They and the Thai authorities had the wool pulled over their eyes by the British Director of PetroSaudi, Patrick Mahony and his highly paid collaborators, who have spent the last year vilifying Justo for seeking to expose the world’s biggest money-laundering scandal, in which PetroSaudi itself played a major role.
Just over a year ago, following the arrest of the ex-PetroSaudi director, Xavier Justo in Thailand, Sarawak Report contacted the Swiss Foreign Ministry to ask what action had been taken to ensure their national’s rights as a prisoner abroad?
The Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs replied with a general statement:
The FDFA has learned of the arrest of a Swiss national in Thailand and is in contact with the local authorities. The individual is receiving assistance in the framework of consular protection from the competent Swiss representation. For reasons of data protection and to protect the privacy of the individual, no further information can be given.
The Swiss authorities did not elaborate on what “assistance” was available “in the framework of consular protection”. However, at the very least it had to be assumed that they were in regular contact with their national to ensure that he was receiving untrammelled access to the best possible legal advice; was being held in reasonable conditions and not subjected to undue pressures or abuses of his rights.
Now we learn that this was far from being the case.
According to Justo, whose wife Laura has now given an exclusive interview to Sarawak Report, the first person who came to visit him in jail was none other than the UK Director of PetroSaudi, Patrick Mahony.
It was the same Patrick Mahony who had denounced Justo to the Thai authorities in the first place. Therefore, as an interested party in the case he had no legitimate reason whatsoever to be allowed anywhere near the prisoner, let alone to interfere in the handling of the case.
Yet Mahony proceeded to exploit this extraordinary access to the prisoner, in order to threaten and blackmail him, says wife Laura Justo.
Bragging, truthfully or otherwise, that he had ‘bought’ all the relevant authorities in Thailand, the oil company executive told his former friend and fellow director at PetroSaudi, Xavier Justo, that he had a simple choice: he could either to cooperate with him and get out of jail, or he could expect a long prison sentence in an unprotected part of the prison, where he could easily be murdered by vengeful Malaysians, who Mahony made clear were anxious to eliminate a crucial witness over 1MDB.
Justo was naturally shocked and terrified to find himself at the mercy of his accusers behind bars, especially as Mahony proceeded to demonstrate an untoward influence over the prison authorities.
He organised for Justo’s conditions to be improved at the jail, for example, but only so long as he agreed to do exactly what PetroSaudi wanted.
Laura says her husband was removed from a cage of 60 prisoners, without space to lie down properly to sleep, into far safer and more bearable quarters for the time being (these conditions have now been largely reversed once more and Justo is being kept on inadequate food and water rations in a hot and crowded cell).
PetroSaudi’s next step was to move to retrieve all the evidence held by their former senior colleague, who had passed data to the news organisations The Edge and Sarawak Report, which revealed the company’s complicity over the theft of approximately one and a half billion dollars from the development fund 1MDB.
To this end Mahony organised a second person to visit Justo just two days after his incarceration. This was Paul Finnegan, a former UK policeman, who claimed he had been deployed to work on the case by Scotland Yard, supposedly with the blessing of the Thai authorities.
That claim was a lie, however.
Finnegan was in fact hired by PetroSaudi (for £500/RM3,000 a day) to handle the prisoner on their behalf.
Indeed, the very day after Justo’s arrest Mahony and Finnegan were permitted by Thai officials to enter and search his home in Koh Samui for files and documents relating to the case.
Finnegan told Justo that since he was also working with Scotland Yard he could help him get out of jail, so long as the prisoner cooperated with PetroSaudi. This meant revealing where all his remaining data was and signing a “small confession” aimed at getting PetroSaudi off the hook. This, as Finnegan also explained to Xavier’s wife Laura, would ‘satisfy the Thais’ and enable Justo to be set free ‘by the back door of the prison’.
Laura Justo says that at this time she was promised back in Geneva that Finnegan was not working directly for PetroSaudi. Whether or not Justo was initially aware of the situation remains unclear, but he his wife says he decided he had no choice but to cooperate with Finnegan and Mahony after the threats to his own safety, given Mahony’s evident influence over his jailers.
Sarawak Report therefore asks where were the Swiss Consulate and the Embassy while all this was going on?
How often did they visit Justo and why did they not know that these pressures were being exerted against their national by an interested party from a third country with no rights to interfere in the handling of the case?
Finnegan’s first target was to retrieve Justo’s remaining data on behalf of PetroSaudi.
Once their captive had revealed that this was kept was back at his home in Geneva, where his wife Laura was visiting family with her new baby, Finnegan immediately made contact.
In her interview with Sarawak Report Laura Justo said that the bogus police officer was extremely threatening. He demanded on the phone that she release the material or he would organise for her to be ‘arrested by the UK police’.
Laura says she was not convinced by such claims, but that Finnegan then put her husband on the phone from inside the jail, who begged her to do what Finnegan was asking.
Finnegan then immediately flew from Bangkok to Geneva to confront Laura Justo, who handed over the files specified by her husband. The PetroSaudi employee assured her the material would be given to the UK authorities, which never happened. Once again, she says he aggressively threatened that he would “arrest” her if she refused.
The company was to later to take a second step in its drive to retrieve all the data in the case, by initiating legal proceedings against The Edge and Sarawak Report in Singapore. Again PetroSaudi practiced a deceit in this matter, by pretending that the legal case was instigated by Xavier Justo from his jail in Bangkok, when in fact it was entirely managed and paid for by themselves.
Next, Justo was pressed by Finnegan to sign a confession drawn up by him in Bangkok.
Anyone who has read this devastating 11 page ‘confession’, which was deliberately circulated to selected media by PetroSaudi’s PR team, can see that it was an extraordinary and self-damning document, written with the obvious purpose of exonerating PetroSaudi and 1MDB and attacking the credibility of Justo, along with journalists who had exposed the theft of US1.83 billion dollars from the fund.
The confession put the worst possible light on Justo himself and his motives and would surely have never been advised by any lawyer representing the prisoner’s best interests.
Yet on each and every page of this preposterous document Justo is recorded repeating that he did not want a lawyer present:
“I hereby confess to my full involvement in, and responsibility for, the offences for which I am charged. They are the attempted blackmail and attempted extortion of PetroSaudi. I make this confession of my own free will and accord without any pressure, duress or outside influence. I do not wish to have a lawyer present. I fully admit my criminal behaviour and accept my guilt in these matters. I just want to set the record straight and apologise to those who I have wronged. I have conspired with others and further admit offenses of theft of data, handling stolen goods, selling stolen data and IT equipment to third parties and attempting to launder the proceeds of sale. My only motivation for selling the data that I stole was for monetary gain and I never considered myself a whistle-blower….”
Sarawak Report has now received hand-written notes written by Justo, smuggled out from jail, in which he confirms that he was denied the access that he wanted to a lawyer and that his ‘confession’ was indeed composed by none other than the PetroSaudi agent Paul Finnegan, who later boasted to Laura that he used his experience as a former UK policeman to frame the confession in ‘professional language’.
Sarawak Report wonders how it was possible that a foreign national, who had no work permit or any legal or official status in Thailand, was allowed to take Justo’s confession unsupervised in jail – particularly someone who was directly employed by the very people who had denounced the prisoner?
Justo’s messages from jail to explain that he was told that if he signed the ‘confession’ PetroSaudi would arrange for him to “get out by the back door of the prison” shortly after the trial, where he was promised there would be a light sentence in return for his cooperation.
The opposite proved the case, of course. The confession was so self-damning that the court passed a 6 year sentence, reduced to half for ‘cooperation’.
This was entirely in the interests of PetroSaudi, who had thereby discredited and incarcerated the main witness against them on 1MDB. The Justos realised they had been played, but for the next year PetroSaudi personnel continued to swap promises of an early release in return for further cooperation, in particular newspaper articles discrediting the exposes on 1MDB and PetroSaudi.
Laura Justo’s evidence proves what Sarawak Report had long publicly suspected, which is that Patrick Mahony spent the next year controlling and exploiting Justo’s incarceration in Thailand.
That this party to the case against Justo, who had a direct interest in achieving his conviction and discrediting his evidence on 1MDB, was allowed anywhere near him in the jail prior to the trial, let alone to threaten and blackmail him, is shocking.
Yet this is plainly what happened and continued to happen over the following year and the Swiss consular authorities plainly failed to identify what was going on.
Justo was terrified by his sudden imprisonment, according to our interviews with his wife. Who would not be?
He had been subjected to a spectacular ‘show arrest'; placed in the glare of media spotlights and accused by newspapers of all manner of allegations before he had even seen a lawyer or been remanded.
He had then been thrown into the worst section of this foreign jail, 60 men to a cell, where there was not even room to lie down on one’s back.
By the time he was brought out to see Mahony in a private room he was ready to cooperate, as his wife Laura told Sarawak Report:
“They got him on the phone to me and he was screaming in panic like I have never heard him. He begged me to just do whatever they said”.
Our recorded and documentary evidence confirms her testimony that Mahony bragged to Justo that he had “bought everybody from top to bottom” in Thailand and that he could arrange for VIP conditions in the jail and an early release, if Xavier now did as he requested.
What he need to do was confess to all the accusations PetroSaudi were making and to back up other claims the company were trying to promote in the world media.
Otherwise, he could expect a sentence of 9 years in the worst possible conditions in a dangerous section of the jail, where (Mahony repeated made clear) he could not be protected from ‘revenge attacks’ by Malaysians over 1MDB.
Apart from discrediting Justo and his information, PetroSaudi made clear their top target was also to discredit Sarawak Report, along with the Edge Newspaper, because we had partly used Justo’s information, obtained from PetroSaudi’s database, to expose the 1MDB scandal.
Over the past year our reporting, much of it based on the Justo documents, has been vindicated over and again.
Not one substantive untruth has been demonstrated by those, including PetroSaudi, who have sought to claim that our reporting was ‘false’, ‘doctored’, ‘biased’ or anything else.
And now the Department of Justice has confirmed all our allegations.
Nevertheless, for the next several months Patrick Mahony and his colleagues at PetroSaudi waged a vicious, but secretive, media campaign targetting the Editor of Sarawak Report in the mainstream Malaysian, Swiss and UK media as well as online through blogs, Facebook and a fake Twitter army of attacking commentators.
In return for promises of freedom Xavier Justo and then Laura Justo were pressed to take part in this campaign, to lend weight to accusations that Sarawak Report was part of a paid ‘conspiracy’ to manufacture untruths against Najib and PetroSaudi.
Justo was forced to agree to media interviews orchestrated by Mahony, who hired his friend the Swiss PR agent Marc Comina, to manage the campaign.
Marc Comina used his contacts in the Swiss press, including former colleagues at Le Temps newspaper, to run a number of articles for which he prepped Justo to give pre-prepared answers exonerating PetroSaudi and blaming himself and Sarawak Report, which was described as forging and doctoring the PetroSaudi database.
In order to disguise the fact that PetroSaudi was paying for the entire media manipulation campaign, Comina put forward a legal associate, the prominent Swiss lawyer Marc Henzlin from the firm La Live. Henzlin agreed to be hired by PetroSaudi to act as the legal representative in Switzerland of none other than the person they had put in jail, Xavier Justo.
In turn Hezelin then formally engaged Marc Comina, ostensibly on behalf of Justo, thereby disguising the fact that the PR representative for the jailed Swiss national was in fact being paid by his very accusers to promote their own agenda against him.
It was a staggering conflict of interest where a lawyer denied the identity of his real client, telling newspapers it was not PetroSaudi.
Yet, Sarawak Report has obtained numerous emails which detail the relationship between Patrick Mahony and Marc Henzelin, who took his payments and his orders from Mahony regarding Justo’s case. In one email, Mark Henzelin wrote to Patrick Mahony at PetroSaudi on 8th December 2015:
“Thank you for the update on the Singapore proceedings. We defer to PetroSaudi for the payment of the requested security for costs 28th Dec 2015. The fact that we are not in a position to supervise the Singapore proceedings or the information provided by Xavier puts us in a difficult situation and increases liability exposure, not to speak of potential conflicts of interests….”
In the above email Henzelin was referring to his second role on behalf of PetroSaudi, which was to hire a legal team in Singapore, supposedly on behalf of Xavier Justo, but secretly on behalf of PetroSaudi, in order to pursue a case against The Edge and Sarawak Report in order to reclaim the data provided by Justo.
Mahony’s own emails clearly reveal his role as the real client in charge of the case.
“Please do what the Singapore lawyers ask. Its really not complicated and won’t take much time. Otherwise the whole case falls. I will arrange the fees. Thanks” [see French original email below]
We note that Henzlin was misleading to the press about this highly questionable conflict of interest, because in an interview with Sylvain Besson of Le Temps newspaper (a Facebook friend of Marc Comina, who arranged this ‘exclusive’) the Geneva lawyer specifically claimed that he was not working for PetroSaudi, even though we have proof that it was PetroSaudi who paid for his services.
Henzelin even took the opportunity to promote PetroSaudi’s image as a large and reputable company in the same interview:
“Je ne suis pas l’avocat de PetroSaudi, mais il est de notoriété publique qu’il s’agit d’une société pétrolière sérieuse, pas d’une coquille vide. /“I am not a lawyer for PetroSaudi, but it is publicly known that we are talking about a serious petroleum company, not some empty shell company“, claimed Henzelin
The lawyer proceeded in this article to project his own client as a greedy, unscrupulous thief, who fell into the hands of ‘politically motivated’ journalists (Sarawak Report), whom he accused of doctoring the PetroSaudi data.
In the interview Henzelin told Sylvain Besson of Le Temps:
Henzelin: “All that interested him [Justo] was how much he would be paid… He is not and never was a whistleblower. His motivation was purely financial. … What he did was not very smart, he admits. He made a full confession, he apologized, he collaborated fully with the Thai authorities, he pleaded guilty
Besson: These documents were they modified before publication, as stated PetroSaudi?
Henzelin: My client attended meetings with the Malaysian opposition and activist Clare Rewcastle Brown, who clearly evoked the political use they intended to put the documents that they had not yet read. He believes that the documents were used in an unscrupulous manner and that some have been changed… he feels he has been manipulated
No attempt was made by Le Temps to approach Sarawak Report for the normal right of reply to such accusations, which were prominently published in the newspaper under the title “My Client Says He Was Used And Manipulated”
Henzelin continued in the interview to put in a further good word for the company which was paying his fees. He told Le Temps that Justo had explained to him he had scrutinised several documents in the database material and that he had seen nothing illegal on the part of PetroSaudi.
So, who do these remarks appear to be better serving, PetroSaudi, who was secretly paying Henzelin, or Xavier Justo, whom he publicly claimed to represent?
Meanwhile, the copious written notes that Justo has smuggled out of jail tell an opposite story. In them he says that he knew exactly how the company had assisted 1MDB to siphon out money and that the proof was in the documents. He said he had been instructed by PetroSaudi to tell journalists that he knew nothing of what was in the database, when in fact he knew all about the fraud.
The notes also describe how Justo was being forced to take part in staged interviews with selected journalists organised by Marc Comina.
Comina flew from Switzerland to prepare Justo, who had to learn pages of set answers created by Comina, which were all negative towards himself and benefitted the agenda of PetroSaudi.
These interviews included another with Le Temps called “The Confession of Xavier Justo: I have betrayed”.
“Xavier Justo insists that he is not at all a “whistleblower”. “In terms of image, it would be easier for me to say that I’m the kind who wanted to denounce something, he said. But no, this is not the case. I wanted to make money”
This curiously unquestioning article ended on a note entirely scripted to please Comina’s other erratic client, PetroSaudi director Tarek Obaid:
“He [Justo] seems genuinely affected by the trouble he has caused Tarek Obaid – “an exceedingly endearing man,” he said – he has known him the past twenty years and has always trusted him. “I would formally present my excuses, he said. To betray a friend, it’s terrible. ”
“Patrick has told me, you have done wrong, you’re going against a wall. There was nothing illegal in the [1MDB] transaction ”
“Tarek Obaid is a very endearing man. I would like to formally present my apologies”
Why would Justo condemn himself in such a way and praise his accusers so wholeheartedly, when it could only damage his case and his image further?
The answer is that he was promised freedom in return.
However, as 2015 rolled on1, it became plain that the Justo’s compliant behaviour was not succeeding in obtaining the release from jail promised by PetroSaudi.
Far from it, the company wanted more antics from the couple to support their campaign to escape all blame and help get Najib off the hook.
Laura Justo’s testimony and the new documents obtained by Sarawak Report reveal how Mahony and his colleagues began to demand that she too must support their plans to denounce, entrap, covertly record and defame Sarawak Report.
Numerous messages and recordings reveal how Mahony, together with Paul Finnegan, nagged and bullied Laura to take part in their anonymous online defamation campaigns to trash Sarawak Report and others who were questioning 1MDB.
They also wanted her to do interviews in the Swiss media attacking Sarawak Report.
Mahony explained to Laura in one recorded phone call that it was necessary for her to ‘go public’ attacking Sarawak Report, in order to convince Najib Razak that he could trust Justo sufficiently to agree for him to be released from Thailand.
Having Justo as a free man testifying as a witness against 1MDB was the Prime Minister’s worst nightmare, Mahony said in French. So, unless the couple “proved which team they were on” the Malaysians would continue to use their influence and money to lock him up.
Mahony: “It is his [Najib’s] ultimate nightmare that Xavier could turn on him if he gets out. This is his position at the moment.
Laura: “So what do I say to Xavier about getting out – you told me December?
Mahony: “This guy is still stressed it’s his political career on the line, he’s in deep shit and that’s all he thinks about”.
L: so what do I say?
P: The only way I can show him you are on his side (a team player) is if you are ready to put yourself in the media – you must denounce all the people that are making conspiracies against him..we are all in deep shit. I told you the other day. I am in deep shit and a Prime Minister of a country is in deep shit because of that… he didn’t have to do that [justo releasing the data]”
But, Laura refused to comply or to condone the release of an attack video against the Editor of Sarawak Report, using a recorded conversation they had provoked her to arrange.
As a result, last December PetroSaudi ceased pretending to support Justo’s attempts to get out of jail. They also stopped paying for his lawyers – the Singapore case has now been dropped.
After a year of threats and false promises from PetroSaudi, Laura and her husband have decided to risk the threats to him in jail and to tell the whole truth about their ordeal to the authorities in Switzerland and Thailand.
In the past weeks, when PetroSaudi realised that Laura was planning to take her story to the press associates of Patrick Mahony organised numerous threats to be made to her that she and her husband would reap serious consequences from speaking out. These too have been recorded.
It is time injustices are put right and the Justos are protected from this criminal cover-up.