KUALA LUMPUR, July 4 — Uncertainty still hangs over the veracity of claims that the leaked emails suggesting impropriety in PetroSaudi International’s aborted joint venture with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had indeed been doctored by arrested Swiss national Xavier Justo.
Although the claim, which first appeared in the New Straits Times (NST) last week, was reportedly made by an anonymous expert from Protection Group International (PGI), the UK-based cybersecurity firm has since refused to entertain requests for a confirmation.
Sarawak Report, the whistleblower site that first published the allegedly doctored documents from Justo, said on Monday that its lawyers have written in to PGI to seek verification on its “tampered emails” conclusion.
PGI’s response is particularly important to business daily The Edge, which is now under investigation for publishing news based on the same leaked documents. On Wednesday, the paper received a show-cause letter from the Home Ministry with a seven-day deadline to respond.
But according to a recent report in The Malaysian Reserve, however, PGI has rejected the request from Sarawak Report’s lawyers due to “client confidentiality”.
Malay Mail Online, citing questions in Malaysia over the credibility of the “tampered emails” claim purportedly made by the PGI expert, has written in three times to the firm to appeal for answers.
PGI has rejected all three requests.
“Thank you for your continued interest. However, our position remains the same as previously stated. Should that change we will notify you accordingly,” the firm said in its latest email on Tuesday evening.
In its previous emails, PGI told Malay Mail Online that it cannot issue a response because “we take client confidentiality very seriously and do not reveal any details about the work we do for any client, without their agreement”.
In a statement on Tuesday, DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang asked why the “tampered emails” claim has only stirred interest in Malaysia and nowhere else.
The Gelang Patah MP pointed out that the Thai police officials who arrested Justo last week in Koh Samui are only investigating the Swiss national for extortion and blackmail, and not for falsifying the documents he allegedly stole and leaked to Sarawak Report.
“Why did the issue of ‘tampered emails’ burst into the public domain and only after the arrest of Justo, but only in Malaysia but not elsewhere in the world and not even in Thailand where Justo was arrested for blackmail?” Lim asked in a statement.
He also pointed out that a police report lodged in the United Kingdom at the London police’sNational Fraud and Cyber Crime Report Centre by PSI on March 1 had not been about tampered emails but about confidential emails and servers having been hacked into and their contents made public.
Justo’s arrest in Thailand last week was front-paged in the NST along with a report quoting a cybersecurity expert claiming that the former PSI director had likely doctored documents on the firm’s aborted deal with 1MDB before they were leaked to Sarawak Report.
The documents were purportedly used by the whistleblower site in one of its many exposes that government critics including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad have relied on to question 1MDB’s allegedly opaque deals.
In the English daily’s report, an anonymous spokesman from PGI was quoted saying that documents recovered from Justo, were “incomplete, and underwent an editing process after they were removed from PetroSaudi’s systems and before they were published on the Internet.”
“There are many inconsistencies between the published data and the data which still exists on files within PetroSaudi relating to that period of time”.
“Simply put, it is incomplete data, creatively selected and edited to fit a desired narrative,” the spokesman was quoted saying.
It is not known who commissioned PGI to investigate the authenticity of the documents and how the firm arrived at the conclusion that they were tampered with.
Hundreds of millions were allegedly siphoned out from the abortive 1MDB-PetroSaudi deal in one claim, while another purported that the funds were used to help a Malaysian tycoon purchase a local bank.