By Courtney Trenwith
The Saudi firm has been linked to $700m allegedly paid into bank accounts controlled by the prime minister, who is now facing calls to resign
Saudi oil company PetroSaudi International has been embroiled in an alleged bribery scandal that has seen tens of thousands of Malaysians protest in the streets against their prime minister.
Former employee Xavier Justo, a Swiss national, was earlier this month sentenced to three years jail for blackmailing PetroSaudi by threatening to reveal stolen documents that he claims reveal links between a financial scandal and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Associated Press reported at the time.
The Wall Street Journal and Sarawak Report last month published allegations that $700 million from Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had been transferred into bank accounts apparently controlled by Najib in 2013 ahead of a general election.
In clearing Najib of any wrongdoing, the country’s corruption watchdog said the payments had been made by an anonymous Middle Eastern donor.
Najib has denied any wrongdoing, and called the leaking of documents a political plot against him, AP said.
Malaysian officials also have alleged the documents published by the newspapers were altered from those originally in PetroSaudi's files to make the government look bad.
However it has led to street protests in Malaysia and calls for Najib to step down. At least 20,000 people have rallied in yellow t-shirts in recent days.
During the case against Justo, held in Thailand where he was arrested in June, the court was told the former IT worker had agreed to keep corporate information confidential when his employment at the Saudi company was terminated, but then threatened to sell the information he had if they did not pay him 2.5 million Swiss Francs ($2.6 million), AP said.
He was said to have told Thai police that he handed over documents to representatives of Sarawak Report in expectation of payment, but did not receive any money from them.
PetroSaudi has denied any bribery payment was made to Najib.
The prime minister has called the protests against him ‘haram’ and ‘immature’.