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Prison sentence Thailand refuses to release 1MDB whistleblower

Justo next to armed Thai police officers during a news conference in Bangkok in June 2015

(Keystone)

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has personally tried to secure the repatriation of a Swiss national, currently serving a prison sentence in Thailand, who blew the whistle on alleged corruption at Malaysia’s 1MDB wealth fund.

Xavier Justo was sentenced to a three-year jail term in Thailand in 2015 after being found guilty of blackmail charges against the Saudi Arabian-based company Petrosaudi. Justo claims he was trying to publically raise his suspicions of corruption between his former employer and 1MDB.

The Swiss authorities have formally asked that Justo be transferred to Switzerland to serve the rest of his prison sentence, but Thailand has turned down this request.

According to the foreign ministry, Burkhalter met his Thai counterpart, Don Pramudwinai, on the fringes of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly in New York in an effort to resolve the diplomatic impasse.

However, the meeting appears not to have yielded a positive response. In a written statement, the Swiss foreign ministry on Wednesday said it had “taken note with regret of the decision of the responsible Thai authorities regarding the transfer request.”

The statement added that the ministry treats the “integrity and safety” of Swiss nationals as a priority. It said it would continue to monitor the situation.

The Swiss Attorney General is among several global law enforcement offices that is formally investigating the 1MDB case. It is believed that some $4 billion (CHF3.9 billion) of funds have been misappropriated from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.

Several Swiss banks, most notably BSI, have been caught up in the scandal.

Matt Allen, swissinfo.ch

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