SINGAPORE: Media tycoon Datuk Tong Kooi Ong has failed in a preliminary bout of a High Court suit filed by Swiss national Xavier Andre Justo against him and two others.
The Straits Times Singapore, in a report, said the High Court had earlier this month dismissed Tong’s application to strike out a reply by Justo, which was made in response to the amended defence papers he filed in January.
Justo is suing Tong, the owner of The Edge media group, and two others, demanding the return of two data storage drives allegedly containing information on the global oil services firm PetroSaudi and its business partner 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Justo, a former employee of PetroSaudi, allegedly leaked details that led to claims that billions of ringgit were misappropriated from the Malaysian strategic development company.
With the dismissal, Justo’s lawyers, Suresh Damodara and Clement Ong, retain the right to rebut the position taken by Tong in his amended defence papers.
Justo claimed to have handed over the two storage drives in Tong's presence at a Fullerton Hotel meeting in February last year and alleged he was never paid the promised US$2 million (RM7.81 million) in exchange for the data.
In defence, Tong argued that the claims show no reasonable cause for action and should be struck off. In amended defence papers filed by lawyers Doris Chia and Wong Wan Chee in January, Tong said Justo was not entitled to the drives, given that the data was reported as having been stolen from PetroSaudi.
Justo, 48, who worked for PetroSaudi International (UK) as an IT manager until 2011, is serving a three-year jail term in Thailand for blackmailing his former employer.
It was reported in the Straits Times that he had demanded in the suit that the storage drives be returned and for any copies to be destroyed.
Last December, Tong succeeded in obtaining a court order for SGD$50,000 (RM144,785) to be placed as security for costs incurred so far in the High Court against Justo and his firm for the court action to proceed, made on the grounds that Justo was usually not in Singapore.
The case was granted a stay until security was provided via a lawyer’s undertaking in January.
Two other defendants named in the suit have not entered an appearance or filed their defences. It is understood they have not been served with the court papers.