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COMMENT:

NOW that the dust has settled, many would be looking forward to the criminal proceedings against Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo to begin in Bangkok next week.

But whether he will get to tell all in open court proceedings remains to be seen. He is expected to enter a guilty plea and sentence would be passed.

Besides the news hounds, it cannot be ruled out that diplomats from Switzerland, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Malaysia may turn up in full force.

On Monday (Aug 10), the prosecutor filed the case at a South Bangkok court and secured a date next week to commence proceedings. For many, it could turn out to be a tell-all trial.

The move to secure next week’s trial date was swift as it was only last week that Thai police announced that Justo had signed a confession to the alleged multi-million dollar corporate espionage-cum-extortion.

As far as Thai investigators are concerned, police have completed their investigations and it was left to the prosecutor’s office to move forward with this case which has captured international attention.

Yet, legal sources are sceptical as to how far this case would proceed.

It cannot be ruled out that Justo’s signed confession could have been part of a plea bargain, as not many foreigners are accustomed to conditions of a Thai prison.

Under Thailand’s Penal Code, blackmail carries imprisonment of one year to 10 years, a fine of 2,000 baht (RM225) to 20,000 baht (RM2,250).

When he is charged, a maximum fine can be imposed. The imprisonment term seems to be a point of interest.

Whether imprisonment in Thailand was part of the plea bargain remains to be seen when the case is mentioned on Aug 17.

Justo can be fined, ordered to be deported to enable him to serve his imprisonment term in another jurisdiction — like Switzerland or the United Kingdom.

This would require the involvement of these countries’ Foreign Office. And whether this comes true would be seen on court day.

To many, he is a prized catch due to the nature of the crime, the information he secured (legally or otherwise) and the treasure trove of information that remains intact with him.

“We are told he signed a confession with the hope of getting a reduced sentence when he pleads guilty,” one legal source quipped.

He may be deported to enable enforcement agencies from another country to detain him to assist them in their investigations in their jurisdiction.

While Thai police remain adamant that Justo was arrested and would be prosecuted for blackmail activities in Thailand, he is also a person of interest to authorities in United Kingdom, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The extent of the blackmail activities, its far-reaching effects and even claims of money-laundering activities are now being studied in these jurisdictions.

“In fact, it’s odd no one has mentioned whether there is a freeze on Justo’s accounts by the authorities.”

Thai police were tipped off about Justo’s whereabouts in June and this was followed with affidavits which were submitted to court to secure a warrant of arrest.

Following his arrest on June 22, police investigations alleged Justo had tried to blackmail his former employer, PetroSaudi International, using information he secured from the company’s mainframe.

It remains unanswered how and when he obtained the information, and if others were in cahoots with him.

PetroSaudi International has offices in Switzerland and the United Kingdom, and it cannot be ruled out that a preliminary police report could have been lodged in either jurisdiction, which proved to be the catalyst to affidavits being secured and risk consultants Protection Group International being engaged.

“This was not something compiled over some weeks, or months,” the source explained.

Following his arrest, Thai police revealed their probe brought to light the conspiracy to tarnish the image of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his administration and investment fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

This revelation triggered a police investigation here and to date media tycoon Datuk Kong Tong Ooi and his chief executive Ho Kay Tat were among several who have come under the police radar.

And with Malaysia also having expressed its interest in Justo, only come Aug 17 will we know if indeed Justo will tell all in open court.

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