Deputy East Timor PM Jose Luis Guterres corruption claim

Steve Holland | September 30, 2009

Article from: The Australian

EAST Timor Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres has been accused of corruption after appointing his wife to a highly paid UN job in New York.

In a leaked report, Ombudsman Sebastiao Ximenes says Mr Guterres "engaged in maladministration, with indications of collusion and nepotism", and in doing so broke a number of anti-corruption laws.

The statement and the report have been confirmed by the Ombudsman.

It is the latest in a series of reports and investigations by the Ombudsman, the nation's top anti-corruption body, calling for the Prosecutor General to take criminal action against government ministers.

Mr Guterres left his position as UN ambassador to New York in 2006 to return to East Timor amid an outbreak of violence.

Before he left he appointed his wife, Ana Maria Valerio, to the position of counsel to the UN ambassador in New York, and increased her salary from the level of a local staff member to that of a diplomat.

He has said that if he had failed to find a job for his wife that paid the same salary he was earning, his family would have been homeless on the streets of New York.

It is understood that his wife received almost $US20,000 for three months' work, while most of the East Timorese people have to survive on less than $US1 a day.

The report states Ms Valerio lacked East Timorese citizenship rights as she had not lived in the country for a minimum of eight years and was ineligible to be engaged on a salary equal to that of a diplomat.

Mr Guterres said then prime minister Jose Ramos Horta approved the decision.

The Ombudsman's report says Mr Guterres misinterpreted Mr Ramos Horta's recommendation, and as prime minister it was not within his powers to appoint people to the New York mission.

The Ombudsman has passed the case on to the Prosecutor General.

The penalty for breaking the laws indicated in the report carry a jail term of between one and 20 years, and a fine of up to $120,000.

Mr Guterres has denied any wrongdoing.

"I am not worried. I am ready to face any questions from the Prosecutor General," he said.


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