MEDIA RELEASE: Guterres named Acting Prime Minister despite corruption investigation

FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE

FRETILIN

MEDIA RELEASE

Dili: July 15, 2009

Guterres named Acting Prime Minister despite corruption investigation

The appointment of Jose Luis Guterres as Acting Prime Minister of
Timor–Leste despite unresolved allegations of serious corruption,
again shows that the governing AMP coalition considers itself above
the law, FRETILIN’s deputy parliamentary leader, Francisco Branco MP,
said today.

Guterres was named Acting PM after de facto Prime Minister Gusmao was
urgently evacuated to Singapore for medical treatment.

Branco said evidence emerged 18 months ago, in January 2008, of abuse
of power by Guterres while he was Foreign Minister.

He said Guterres unilaterally granted his wife Ana Maria, then a
junior staff member at Timor-Leste’s diplomatic mission to the United
Nations in New York, the salary of a diplomat far exceeding her
entitlements.

“As a foreigner and non-citizen Ana Maria Guterres could not legally
be classified as a diplomat, yet her husband gave her a salary
exceeding even that of the Head of Mission,” Branco said.

FRETILIN called for Guterres to be investigated in February 2008, but
MPs from the AMP demanded proof, and so on April 8, 2008, FRETILIN
presented an email written by Mr Guterres’ wife Ana Maria in June
2007, which read in part:

“The transfers made into my personal account by the Ministry of
Finance to date were respectively $10,673.33 on 24 November (being for
the first quarter) 2006, $8,005.00 on 11 January (being for the second
quarter) and $18,667.14 on 11 April (being for the third quarter)
which can certainly be verified with the Ministry of Finance. I only
became aware at the time I sought verification that by law, even
though I possess a Timorese Diplomatic passport, I do not have
citizenship rights because I have not lived in Timor-Leste for a
minimum of eight years. For this reason I could not be classified as a
Diplomat for contractual purposes nor for entitlements.”

On ABC Radio Australia Connect Asia program on February 6, 2008, Mr
Guterres admitted that he had in fact authorised these payments to his
wife, saying: “it was a temporary solution, it was not a solution that
I wanted to. But at that time in the situation of crisis in East
Timor, and I had to come back to East Timor to serve the country,
therefore the available solution at that time.”

Francisco Branco said: “Jose Luis Guterres had a clear conflict of
interest given he was the Minister for Foreign Affairs and effectively
his wife’s boss. He abused his power to benefit his own family with
something to which it was not legally entitled. That is official
corruption in anyone’s book.

“Now he is in charge of the nation whilst the de facto Prime Minister
is away receiving urgent medical treatment. Many in Timor-Leste are
wondering what Guterres is up to right now, given his track record.”

Branco said FRETILIN MPs asked the Ombudsman for Human Rights and
Justice (the Provedor) to investigate the allegations against Guterres
more than a year ago, but had heard nothing about the investigation.

“During the fortnight before he was evacuated to Singapore, the de
facto Prime Minister himself was the subject of very serious
allegations that he breached the Procurement Law and State Office
Holders Law in awarding contracts without tenders to his daughter and
relatives of other government ministers.

“Xanana Gusmao is full of fine rhetoric about how he is leading the
fight against corruption, nepotism and collusion.

“Yet we know that the Provedor has had a hard time trying
unsuccessfully to get Ministers and the Prime Minister to cooperate in
delivering documents or responding to requests for information
concerning allegations of corruption by his ministers.”

For information contact Arsenio Bano MP on +670 741 9505

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