THIS morning, New Straits Times readers woke up to images of a heavily tattooed foreigner surrounded by armed officers, held in the custody of the Thai police after a dramatic new development in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) story.
Our exclusive report on the arrest of Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo has been followed by newspapers and online media around the world.
This shocking story had the country talking. Who is Xavier Andre Justo? How could such a sorry figure have ignited a major Malaysian political storm? What motivated this man, so disconnected from the nation of Malaysia, to launch such a callous attack on our people without a thought for the consequences?
The answer appears to be cold, hard cash. Greed can be a route to riches, but it can also be a dangerous road to ruin, as Xavier Justo is learning the hard way.
Now, he finds himself in a Thai jail awaiting prosecution on charges of attempting to blackmail and extort money from his former employers; with further charges to follow in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
According to our sources, Justo stole large quantities of data with the sole purpose of selling it to the highest bidder.
We understand the Thai police have in their possession a series of written demands from Justo to his former employers promising to return the stolen data if he was paid enough; and boasting he could make more money elsewhere if they did not pay up.
What led him to resort to crime? The answer appears to be to fund his lavish lifestyle.
Justo’s social media presence gives a glimpse of his hedonistic lifestyle and wealth — the mansion in paradise, the swimming pool, the tennis courts and the tattooed poses on Harley Davidson motorbikes.
Just last week, Justo looked to be living the good life on an exclusive tropical island, Koh Samui, where he shared an eight-bedroom luxury villa with his new, young wife.
But all was not as it seemed on the surface.
When Justo’s employment was terminated in 2011, he returned to Thailand and tried to set up the consulting business Justo-Consulting. But we have found no evidence that this ever got off the ground. Indeed, the website for Justo-Consulting remains permanently “under development”.
Clearly in need of income, he then set up a small, sunbed tanning business called “Always the Sun” — as listed online at, 9/12 Moo 5, Ban Bang Makham, 84140 Angthong, Koh Samui.
However, similar to his “consultancy business”, “Always The Sun” appears to have generated little business. There are only a handful of reviews online and the top listing is from his wife. One review suggests there was little or no activity at the business and that emails went unanswered.
Ventures that were going nowhere led Justo to the point where he saw crime as the answer. A promising if conventional career in banking had never satisfied him and his desire for an easy ride to a better life was his undoing.
Justo’s earlier career suggested a classic tale of social mobility. Born into a very ordinary Swiss family to Spanish parents, Justo did not bother with university and left school to work in three successive banks over 12 years in various financial and commercial roles.
It is not clear how he came to meet influential figures from Saudi Arabia but he clearly did enough to win their confidence and the offer of a job as a senior administrator in Geneva.
Sources suggest that it was when Justo’s first marriage failed things started to go wrong — heavy drinking, multiple body tattoos and poor timekeeping were not likely to impress any employer.
Justo quit his role in Switzerland to start a life of unrestrained hedonism in Thailand with no job or meaningful income.
It was then that he was offered a way to get his career back on track in the form of an executive administration role for a Saudi oil company, PetroSaudi International.
Among other things, he was given responsibility for the information technology (IT) function, a trust that, according to the Thai police charges, would later be betrayed.
It is understood that Justo lost his job for unreliability, but it has been reported by the Thai police that he nonetheless received a substantial settlement payment under the terms of an exit agreement.
Although the NST has not seen a copy of this agreement, strict confidentiality and a requirement to return all company property and data is invariably a standard feature of any exit agreement.
But, evidently, Justo was not satisfied, perhaps realising it would not fund the lifestyle he planned in Thailand forever.
As head of IT, he used his privileged access to the company’s computer systems to copy emails and documents with a view to selling them to the highest bidder if his funds ran low.
With his Thai ventures stalled and no prospect of other income, Justo resorted to a crude blackmail and extortion attempt, threatening to sell what he had to unnamed buyers unless the company paid him off. Justo’s written demands for cash, now in the hands of the Thai police, clearly demonstrate he was not motivated by any form of altruism.
The figure of 2.5 million Swiss Francs (RM10 million) has been widely reported. But the company did not pay him a single Swiss Franc in response to his crude attempt at extortion.
As a consequence, Justo sought other avenues to place his stolen bounty and the Sarawak Report duly obliged. This has been confirmed by independent IT experts Protection Group International (PGI) and also by Sarawak Report’s editor, Clare Rewcastle Brown.
In her story published yesterday titled “Open Letter to the Swiss Foreign Ministry in Bern”, Rewcastle Brown sought to defend Justo, and made an unprecedented and unprovoked attack on the Thai legal system.
We cannot speculate on her motivations for doing this, but the Thai police have made it clear that they have seized Justo’s computer equipment for further testing; and PGI has confirmed that documents on The Sarawak Report have been creatively altered.
Justo now faces both jail time and likely losing the money he received in his earlier settlement. A story of rags to riches is about to turn full circle. His life of tanning salons, tattoos, motorbikes and the tacky trappings of luxury have come to an end in a Thai jail.
Whether, in his quest for riches, Justo sought to exploit the Malaysian political situation, or whether he was merely a pawn exploited by others, are questions that we rely on the police to answer.- NST