15 July 2009

Guterres named Acting Prime Minister despite corruption investigation



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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