03 June 2009

Timor minister defends husband after police raid

Tue, Jun 02, 2009 AFP DILI, EAST TIMOR - East Timorese Justice Minister Lucia Lobato defended her husband from corruption claims on Tuesday after UN and local police raided the family home in search of alleged forged documents.

Police had a court warrant permitting them to enter the premises in search of evidence of corruption claims made against Lobato's husband, businessman Americo Lopes.

"As a wife I want to tell you that I trust my husband. I've been married to him for 20 years - I know him better than anyone," the minister told AFP.

"I can guarantee that there is no falsification of any documents that has been done by my husband. Nothing happened," she said.

She said the police "broke all the doors" when they raided the couple's office and home in the Bidau area of Dili at about 9:00 am Monday.

Lopes's business partners in energy company Pualaka Petrolium Fuel allege he forged documents without their knowledge to gain a higher controlling share in the enterprise.

His lawyer, Alvaro Maria Freitas, told reporters the search was normal police procedure in response to a complaint.

Police declined to comment on whether any evidence of corruption had been found during the raid.

Lobato said her husband was ready to cooperate with the investigation.

The minister recently filed defamation charges against editor Jose Belo after his newspaper, Tempo Semanal, published a story accusing her of collusion and nepotism related to the granting of government tenders.

Tempo Semanal also published a story alleging favouritism in the awarding of a 3.1-million-dollar contract to Pualaka to supply diesel fuel to the nation's electricity provider.

The minister denies any wrongdoing and has said she is prepared to defend the accusations in court.

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