Swiss man linked to 1MDB investigation released from Thai prison

Tue Dec 20, 2016 1:34am EST
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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand on Tuesday freed from prison a Swiss man jailed for blackmail and attempted extortion in a case linked to a scandal over Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Xavier Justo was among 150,000 Thai and foreign inmates who were granted a royal amnesty this month by Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn. He will be deported to Switzerland, his lawyer said.

Justo was jailed for three years in August 2015 after Thai police said he admitted to blackmail and attempting extortion of his former employer, Petrosaudi International, a Saudi Arabia-based oil and gas company and former joint venture partner of 1MDB.

The Malaysian state fund 1MDB, once a pet project of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who chaired its advisory board, is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

After his release, Justo, dressed in a white T-shirt, blue shorts and flip flops, was taken to an immigration detention center in Bangkok in a police van accompanied by four police commandos.

"I'm happy to be sent home," Justo told Reuters as he went into the center. "I hope to be back by tonight."

Justo's lawyer in Thailand, Worrasit Piriyawiboon, said his client would be deported to Switzerland.

"It's now up to immigration when they decide to deport him and up to his embassy," Worrasit told Reuters.

In August, Justo's sentence was cut to two years under a royal amnesty, prompting the Swiss authorities to request his transfer to serve the remaining term back home.   Continued...

Swiss national Xavier Justo is escorted by Thai police commandos as he arrives at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok, Thailand, December 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom