Wednesday, 22 September 2010

East Timor’s Justice Minister’s Husband Appears as Accused in Dili District Court

At about 09.20 Dili Time, Mr. Americo L. Lopes the husband of East Timor’s Justice Minister arrived in the Court in his luxury car (a Hummer). Not long after the Minister Lucia Brandao Lobato also arrived. There had been two previous hearings in this case in Mr. Americo’s absence. Today is the first time he has come to the court for the hearing of what has become known as The Pualaka Petrol Fuel Company case. Joao Alves and Luis Oliviera, the other two co-owner the company with Mr. Americo have filed legal action in the Dili District court against Mr. Americo and the Portuguese BNU bank in Dili. There are two allegations of falsification of Pualaka Fuel LDA company certification documents representing the company as “Pualaka Fuel Unipessoal”, which are also suspected of being facilitated by the Office of the Notary Public.
The Notary Public’s Office is a department under Minister Lucia’s portfolio responsibility. Mr. Alves and Oliviera allege that as a result of this they were prevented from having access to their joint account with Mr. Americo in Portuguese BNU Bank in Dili.
Last year East Timor’s Banking and Payments Authority (the precursor to the country’s Central bank) found the Portuguese Bank to have acted wrongfully. This led to the removed of the then director, who was sent back to Portugal. Pualaka Petrol Fuel LDA was set up by Luis Oliviera, Americo L. Lopes and Joao Alves in 2008. The company was awarded a multi-million US dollar contract to supply fuel to Government EDTL power station, which led to some allegations of collusion and nepotism.

Mr. Americo appeared as the accused in the court room, whilst Mr. Joao Alves and Mr. Luis Oliviera sat outside the court room. Minister Lucia’s presence was criticized by Mr. Joao Alves as an act of intimidation against the court. After the trial Minister Lucia told reporters that she has taken three days family leave.
The case was adjourned to further hearing with the judges deciding to request that Mr. Artur Jorge, the former Dili Portuguese BNU director give his testimony as the witness in this case in a Portuguese court and that evidence be relayed to the East Timor court hearing this case.

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