Who is misleading whom?

THE day before Singapore’s respected The Straits Times daily ran Friday’s exclusive interview with Xavier Andre Justo, their writer had emailed The Edge bosses in Kuala Lumpur for comments on Justo’s disclosures. Justo, who is under Thai police custody, had named The Edge’s owner and publisher in the Bangkok prison interview. But the ST chose not to name the two in its exclusive story since both didn’t reply to its emailed query by press time. NST’s A Jalil Hamid shares with us:

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In ST’s report, Justo claimed that he was offered US$2 million (RM7.6 million) by a “prominent” Malaysian businessman and his colleague for documents stolen from PetroSaudi International, but claimed that the payment was not made in the end.

As events unfolded on Friday in the wake of the ST “expose”, both sides launched a broadside, with The Edge owner Datuk Tong Kooi Ong and his publisher, Ho Kay Tat, claiming that the ST journalist who interviewed Justo “must be very well connected” to have gained access to Justo.

“We wonder which powerful hidden hand arranged for Nirmal Ghosh of the Singapore daily to meet Justo so that he can launch an attack on us?” both men said.

The ST has fired back, telling Tong and Ho that it managed to arrange for the interview through dogged efforts by their Bangkok correspondent, Nirmal Ghosh.

“We know of no hidden hand behind our getting access to him,” ST foreign editor Audrey Quek told this paper.

“Our reporter had for several days sought access to Justo and was eventually offered it by his lawyer. Naturally, we pursued the opportunity given the widespread interest in it and its significance,” she said.

What was disclosed by Justo to the ST was quite explosive.

Justo claimed that the group he had met in Singapore — including Sarawak Report’s Clare Rewcastle-Brown — had tampered with the data he had given them.

“I gave the original documents without any kind of alteration,” he claimed.

“I can say that I gave those documents to two groups of people,” he added.

One was Rewcastle-Brown and “her IT guy” and the other was the Malaysian businessman and his colleague.

He alleged that those he met had talked about using the documents “to try to bring down the Malaysian government”, adding that they also referred to plans to “modify the documents”.

In their immediate reaction to the ST expose, Tong and Ho admitted that a meeting took place with Justo, who was promised US$2 million in return for stolen PetroSaudi data.

Tong, Ho and The Edge were now saying that in the name of national and public interests, they had obtained stolen data from Justo, and that this was morally correct in view of the larger picture of exposing other people’s alleged wrong-doings‎.

They also argued that because they did not pay Justo, saying he was misled that he would be paid for the data which he claimed contained “evidence” on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). They had to resort to this convoluted tactic to obtain this data to expose others.

The facts are that they knew that the data were illegally obtained by Justo and that they promised the Swiss national US$2 million for such information.

That the parties agreed to mask the US$2 million payment to Justo for the purchase of the stolen information by pretending that it was an IT contract.

That the group also had many discussions with Justo and Rewcastle-Brown on how to ensure these funds to Justo were below the radar of the monetary authorities.

These facts and the published comments by Justo about alleged attempts to bring down the Malaysian government should be considered as a serious matter that needs to be investigated by the authorities.

Both Tong and Ho, however, insisted there was “no tampering” of the documents they obtained, saying they “immediately did a digital fingerprint of the hard disc that contained over 400,000 emails and documents and secured it”.

They said they had handed over the “exact copy” of data as given by Justo to Bank Negara Malaysia and the police.

They justified their action by saying that was the only way they could have acquired the documents from Justo to expose how “a small group of Malaysians and foreigners cheated the people of Malaysia of US$1.83 billion”.

But the stolen data were not immediately handed over to the Malaysian authorities. It was only last week that the data were said to be given to Bank Negara and the police.

All this while, these data were used to churn out their 1MDB stories.

It is high time the public found out who is misleading whom.

The Home Ministry has suspended the group’s publishing permits for their daily and weekly newspapers for three months.

The Justo episode aside, Malaysians are now demanding the truth. The agencies involved in the 1MDB and related probe must establish the truth on what actually happened for the sake of the nation.

Like other Malaysians, I have faith in the integrity of the four-agency task force in carrying out their mandate. The reputation and the credibility of the current administration must be quickly restored and strengthened.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/node/93324