KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — Former Petrosaudi International executive Andre Xavier Justo claimed to have met billionaire Low Taek Jho two times to discuss a deal involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Despite Low’s insistence that he had no involvement in 1MDB outside of the Terengganu Investment Authority, Justo told The Star newspaper in an interview that he personally encountered the billionaire twice over a deal with PSI that was eventually aborted but for which money still changed hands.
“I met him (Low) twice. I have told the Swiss authorities the details,” he was quoted as saying.
PSI and 1MDB entered an abortive US2.5 billion joint venture in 2012 for which the Malaysian firm still “paid” the former US$700 million, except that the sum went to Good Star Ltd, a firm that investigators say whose main beneficiary is Low.
In a few short years, Justo has gone from villain to apparent hero.
Justo was arrested, tried and convicted in Thailand for attempting to blackmail Petrosaudi over a stolen cache of documents in 2015.
He had then been characterised as an opportunist to tried to extort PSI over the stolen documents, before trying to hawk the same cache to a Malaysian news outlet for US$2 million.
Now, he is viewed as an integral witness in the 1MDB scandal that is just as massive, in both value and notoriety, than three years ago.
In the interview published today, Justo claimed to know that the JV was suspicious from the start due to the amount of money being moved and the commissions offered.
“(PSI’s) Tarek Obaid and Patrick Mahony had access to the real numbers, but I knew something was wrong,” Justo said.
Commissions were an accepted way of life in the oil-and-gas industry, Justo said before stressing that these were usually nominal sums.
“It is something to take 1 per cent or 5 per cent, but it is something else to take more than 80 per cent of the amount in commission. I knew that something was wrong, but I wasn’t expecting this madness.”
Justo is possibly the most intimately connected personality in the globe-spanning 1MDB scandal who is sharing the details of at least one of the questionable deals and ventures that led the Malaysian firm to rack up liabilities of over RM40 billion.
He has known PSI co-founder Obaid since the 1990s and was an early part of the O&G firm established in 2009, exactly the same time when TIA became 1MDB, the timing of which had always aroused suspicion.
Justo also reportedly lent Obaid US$30,000 to start up PSI, even providing the latter office space in the Swiss finance house where Justo had been working before joining the firm.
While PSI purports to be an O&G firm, its business appeared to be leveraging connections to individuals with political clout — for instance, prime ministers of developing countries — to gain access to cash-rich state-run firms.
Low, also known as Jho Low, continues to deny any involvement in 1MDB beyond his days in TIA.
However, Council of Eminent Persons advising the Malaysian government has asked him to return home to shed light on the 1MDB scandal.
Low is also being sought US Department of Justice (DOJ) that now reportedly considers him the mastermind of the 1MDB saga.
The Malaysian is variously rumoured to be in Taiwan, Macau, Shanghai or Bangkok.