28 December 2010

Indonesian military linked to Timorese drug runs

Rory Callinan The Australian December 28, 2010 12:00AM - Indonesian soldiers have been linked to the alleged trafficking of crystal methamphetamine and other illegal drugs into East Timor.

The troops have been involved in a smuggling operation using remote bush tracks along the two nations' border, according to a local security-monitoring NGO.

Fundasaun Mahein (Guardian Foundation), which was established partly through funding from an Australian Federal Police grant, has warned of a growing threat from organised crime to the tiny nation and noted links between the Indonesian military and the trafficking of hard drugs.

It alleges that drugs are being sourced in Bali before being smuggled to East Timor and are then distributed to foreigners through a restaurant in the capital in a racket run by an Indonesian businessman with military connections.

The AFP, which has a contingent based in East Timor, says it is aware of the report but any comment should come from local authorities.

The report, compiled last month, quotes an anonymous official in the border regions and several informants, and provides detail of criminal activity identifying some alleged perpetrators and their businesses by initials and documenting the operations of one syndicate that is allegedly bringing in marijuana, ecstasy, crystal methamphetamine and heroin.

It says the mastermind of the drug syndicate is a Bali-based businessman who is involved in marine transport operations between Java and Bali.

He is alleged to hold a position in the military and has a contact based in Kupang in West Timor with connections to former militia members, who act as drug couriers to cross the border, the report says.

Smuggling now takes place at midnight, or early in the morning, and "there are stories that they are accompanied by several Indonesian National Army (or TNI members), who are on duty in the border area" and also by ex-militia members, the report says.

"Although I know there is distribution in the border, I don't dare to report because the risk is I can lose my life," a local official from the border area told FM.

"Selling takes place openly, especially when there are no UN staff, or UNPOL, around to take action."

The report said: "Smuggling activities from Nusa Tenggara Timor territory to Timor Leste are mostly done in the forests, among walking paths and other hidden locations along the border between the two countries."

Once in the country, the drugs were passed to a restaurant owner in Dili whose business the report names by its initials.

East Timor's Secretary of State for Security, Francisco Guterres, said the government was aware of the report but was already acting on the issues raised.

FM was established by East Timorese academic Nelson Belo and a former UN adviser, Edward Rees, to monitor security in East Timor.

In 2009, the AFP donated $90,000 to help fund the NGO.

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