More than eight years after Sarawak Report first published its explosive expose of Jho Low’s Heist of the Century, the Swiss authorities have at last issued an indictment against two of the key conspirators behind the initial theft of $1.8 billion dollars from 1MDB.
The delay came despite the fact, as the prosecutors themselves point out, “The US Department of Justice described the affair as ‘the largest kleptocracy case to date’ and a swathe of Swiss based banks, including Coutts Zurich and JP Morgan Suisse, both cited in this indictment, have faced penalties.
Although they are not named in the press release issued by the Swiss Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday, it is clear that the “two PETROSAUDI managers” indicted for having “misappropriated” then “laundered” that enormous sum of money over the period from 2009 to 2015 are the Saudi national and present shareholder of the company, Tarek Obaid, and his British advisor and former fellow director, Patrick Mahony.
Tellingly, the statement details the amounts the two men received in kickbacks after the initial theft of $700 million, which was siphoned from the fraudulent investment of one billion dollars into a bogus ‘joint venture’ between PetroSaudi and 1MDB in October 2009.
The enormous sum had been detoured into the RBS Coutts Zurich account of Good Star Limited, a company owned by Jho Low. From there, as the statement details:
“LOW transferred USD 85 million to one of the accused, who in turn, transferred USD 33 million of that sum to the other accused.” [Office of the Swiss AG]
Sarawak Report has already established that these were the exact same sums passed to Obaid and then Mahony, based on the evidence provided in January 2015 by the whistleblower and former PetroSaudi employee, Xavier Justo.
Quoting from our original expose:
On 29th September, Good Star … issued two contracts, signed by Jho’s underling Li Lin Seet. One contract was to Tarek Obaid himself, paying him a “broker fee of USD$85 million”‘
The other contract was from Good Star to Patrick Mahony, hiring him as an Investment Manager for a fund also of $85 million…
We reported how, shortly after the $85 million was passed to Obaid, transactions show he paid $33 million on to Mahony, apparently in connection with that Investment Manager status:
A chart of the money flows was produced by The Edge newspaper based on all the transactions referred to in the PetroSaudi data provided by Justo tells the same story.
Sarawak Report has investigated how the kickbacks went into, amongst other luxuries, a Notting Hill mansion that was bought by Patrick Mahony immediately after the heist and numerous other ventures and properties owned by the two men.
For the PetroSaudi boys this official prosecution has been a long time coming. The alleged fraudsters have employed their cash for years hiring top lawyers and all manner of other agents to protect their interests and go after critics.
They have also spent it on funding a lavish lifestyle, with Obaid recently housing himself in a 5 Star sanitorium in Geneva and Mahony dividing his time between his Notting Hill mansion in London and a chalet in Gstaad whilst purportedly travelling the globe in search of new opportunities, predominantly in less well-governed countries sometimes described as ’emerging markets’.
As the indictment puts it
“The two accused used money misappropriated from 1MDB to acquire, among other assets, real estate in Switzerland and in London, jewellery, private equity, to develop PETROSAUDI activities from which they received substantial income, and to maintain a lavish lifestyle.”
As Sarawak Report was also the first to exclusively report much of the money that didn’t go directly into the pockets of these two men was invested by the PetroSaudi network of off-shore companies into a fraudulent oil drilling project off the coast of Venezuela.
Acting as their Chief Operating officer was the top UK businessman and Chairman of Mastercard Rick Haythornthwaite who lambasted Sarawak Report for making enquiries at the time about the Venezuelan venture, claiming we were ‘campaigning bloggers’ rather than ‘objective journalists’:
“Therefore, even if I were to be in possession of information relevant to your query, I would be unwilling to assist you in your questionable activities”
Amongst other big names on the PetroSaudi payroll was the top Swiss lawyer Marc Henzelin of the firm Lalive, whom Sarawak Report exposed as being hired by PetroSaudi to falsely represent Xavier Justo whom the fraudsters had denounced in Thailand.
The purpose? to make sure Justo remained in a Bangkok jail having been forced into a false confession that he had made up the evidence over 1MDB later published by Sarawak Report.
Tuesday’s Swiss indictment confirms from yet another official source (following on from the US Department of Justice and Malaysia’s own court filings) that the so-called government to government backed PetroSaudi 1MDB ‘Joint Venture’ was entirely bogus.
Najib had dragged Malaysia into the farce from his all-powerful role as PM cum MOF cum sole signatory of 1MDB, however the state of Saudi Arabia was not involved. Only one prince, Prince Turki Abdullah, a son of the then king – who is now in prison on separate corruption charges – was connected to the arrangement as a 50% shareholder in PetroSaudi – a shell company at the time.
Prince Turki was to receive kickbacks amounting to $77 million from the stolen money. The $700 million itself had been removed from the joint venture under a pretext of the repayment of a ‘loan’ said to have been advanced by PetroSaudi’s parent company on the grounds it had injected an oil field worth $2.7 billion into the project with Malaysia. None of this was true as there had been no loan and there were no oil assets:
In order to reinforce the appearance that the joint-venture would be a government-to-government operation, the accused and Taek Jho LOW manipulated a meeting that involved Najib RAZAK – who in addition to being the prime minister of Malaysia was also finance minister, president of the Board of Advisors of 1MDB, the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, and the representative of the sole shareholder in 1MDB – and Prince Turki Bin Abdullah Bin Abulaziz AL SAUD, son of the late king of Saudi Arabia, which was held near Cannes in August 2009 on the yacht ‘Alfa Nero’.
Furthermore, the two accused and Taek Jho LOW benefited from the support of two managers at 1MDB who spread a narrative throughout 1MDB which was intended to mislead the board of directors of the sovereign wealth fund. This left the Board of Directors of 1MDB with an inaccurate understanding of the government-to-government operation: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not in involved in the transaction, and the 1MDB Board was unaware of the debt amounting to USD 700 million due by the joint venture company to PETROSAUDI, or indeed that PETROSAUDI did not hold the rights it was said to have to the Turkmen [oil] assets that it claimed to be bringing into the joint venture [Swiss AG’s Indictment]
Numerous legal firms have supported PetroSaudi in setting up these deals and in their attempts to retain the profits.
The trans Atlantic law firm White & Case originally assisted PetroSaudi in framing the joint venture and bogus loan repayment.
Another top UK firm, Clyde & Co, succeeded in winning a judgement on appeal in the UK which allowed the company to retrieve $340 million in profits made from Venezuela, despite evidence that these were the proceeds of defrauding 1MDB and a case of fraud which had been brought by Venezuela.
Finally, in October 2021, the United States Department of Justice succeeded in freezing the $340 million just as the PetroSaudi boys had set about demanding it be released from the London court.
Even so, Obaid has beengranted a million dollars every month to pay the PetroSaudi lawyers and cover the ‘running costs’ of the now inactive company, For over 16 months he and his collaborators have succeeded in keeping the international forces of law and order at bay while they lived in luxury off Malaysia’s stolen money.
Obaid remains within easy reach of the Swiss authorities in Geneva. He is said to be fearful of travelling back to Saudi Arabia where his former partner remains incarcerated.
Despite the anonymity of the Swiss indictment, it is to be assumed that Patrick Mahony is now on the international wanted list and that pending their arraignment the two fraudsters are now fugitives, just like their former collaborator, Jho Low.
Xavier Justo to Appeal
The final segment of the Swiss announcement contains disappointment for the main protagonist in the Swiss arm of the 1MDB affair.
The former PetroSaudi director, Xavier Justo, who first exposed the fraudulent involvement of his colleagues in this joint venture has been turned down in his request for a separate prosecution of both Mahony and Obaid relating to their involvement in his false arrest and imprisonment in Thailand.
Justo was jailed in Bangkok for 18 months in 2015 owing to bogus charges brought by PetroSaudi. He cited an extensive list of crimes and harms against him resulting from that conspiracy to cover up the truth of the information he had passed to Sarawak Report. As the statement reports:
These comprised threatening behaviour (Art. 180 SCC), extorsion and blackmail (Art. 156 SCC), coercion (Art. 181 SCC), false imprisonment and abduction (Art. 183 SCC), endangering the life of another person (Art. 129 SCC), wilful defamation (Art. 174 SCC), making false accusations (Art. 303 SCC), misleading judicial authorities (Art. 304 SCC), bribery of foreign public officials (Art. 322septies SCC), forgery of documents (Art. 251 SCC), membership of or support for a criminal organisation (Art. 260ter SCC) and money laundering (Art. 305bis SCC).
However, despite the well-known circumstances of this affair the Swiss AG concluded that “constituent elements of the reported offences have not been met, that the right to file a complaint is time-barred”.
Given that it has taken several years since 201,7 when Justo together with his wife had filed their complaints, for the Swiss to make an official move the couple expressed their frustration today, but also took comfort:
“The Swiss state took over the main charge from our criminal complaint against PetroSaudi, namely that of money laundering which we were the first to lodge charges over in October 2017. This means in effect the Swiss authorities have taken over the main substance of our complaint which was our purpose in reporting this crime. Many people today have been congratulating us for our role in finally bringing these criminals to book”
Xavier Justo told Sarawak Report.
Moreover, the statement has made clear the Justos still have room to appeal the decision not to proceed at this point with the further charges they made on false imprisonment, defamation and the endangering of their lives.
Today, having just published their own recent book Rendezvous with Injustice the couple told Sarawak Report the will wait to make up their minds on whether to pursue their case now that at least this official prosecution is underway.