FRETILIN MEDIA RELEASE Dili, 7 June 2009 Justice Minister intervenes in police investigation of her husband - Timor–Leste de facto Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao should dismiss his Justice Minister Lucia Lobato for her public comments on a corruption investigation into her businessman-husband, FRETILIN said today.
FRETILIN's Vice President and Member of the National Parliament, Arsenio Bano said Ms Lobato's comments during the last week are widely seen as an attempt unacceptable to influence the police and prosecution investigation into her husband, Americo Lopes.
“Once again the Justice Minister has shown she is unfit for the office by placing the independence and credibility of Timor-Leste's justice system at risk, “ Bano said.
Americo Lopes' co-directors in the Pualaka Oil Company Ltd have alleged he falsified Pualaku company statutes in order to gain access to the company's jointly held funds in the Dili branch of the BNU bank.
Until last month Pualaka supplied diesel fuel to the country's state-owned power stations. Authorities have yet to investigate allegations made last October by the Dili newspaper Tempo Semanal that Prime Minister Gusmao awarded the fuel supply contract despite Pualaka’s bid being more expensive than its competitors and its lack of experience in the fuel supply business.
On Monday 1 June 2009 police exercising a search warrant raided the residential compound where Ms Lobato and her husband live, and where his office is located.
On June 2 AFP news agency and other media quoted Ms Lobato as saying: “As a wife I want to tell you that I trust my husband. I have been married to him for 20 years – I know him better than anyone,” and “I can guarantee that there is no falsification of any documents that has been done by my husband. Nothing happened.”
Subsequently, on 3 June 2009 she was reported in Lusa (Portuguese language news service) attacking Timor's President, Jose Ramos-Horta, the new Prosecutor General appointed by him, Ana Pessoa, the Timor-Leste National Police and the United Nations Police with regard to the criminal investigation of her husband.
“I have heard it said that the President of the Republic –Jose Ramos Horta – delivered some (alleged) evidence against me to the Prosecutor General of the Republic”, she was reported saying, as well as accusing Ana Pessoa of being politically biased, saving special caustic comments for the Police referring to their actions as being “excessive” and hinting they had acted beyond the law.
Arsenio Bano said Ms Lobato’s comments were seen by the public as an unacceptable attempt to exert political influence on the investigative and prosecutorial arms of the criminal justice system.
“The Minister for Justice must not only remain at arms length from the investigation into her husband, she must also be clearly seen to be doing so. The Minister should leave the police and prosecutors alone to do their jobs. If Mr. Americo Lopes has any complaints on the legality of any aspect of the investigation, he should take it to the courts. That's the role of the courts and his wife should not interfere with it, especially as the Justice Minister ” he said.
“She has also prejudged the outcome of any investigation and breached our constitutional provision of the separation of powers in doing so.
“Prime Minister Gusmao apparently is afraid to act against Ms Lobato for fear of repercussions from other members of his AMP governing coalition. However, he must act in the national interest and in the interest of our justice system, and dismiss her before she does any more damage.”
For further information please contact Arsenio Bano on +670 741 9505