East Timor Corruption

East Timor Corruption

The young state between Indonesia and Australia may have oil and gas reserves, but it is one of the least developed countries. The capital Dili is cosmopolitan. A social upheaval is also noticeable in rural areas, which are determined by subsistence farming.

Country Overview

According to computerannals, the Indonesian occupation of the country ended in 1999 with a referendum carried out by the United Nations, in which 78.5% of East Timorese voted for independence. The 24 year long conflict cost the lives of up to 183,000 people. The price of independence was high, so the expectations and development challenges are correspondingly high.

Society & culture

The young country is grappling with the task of consolidating its identity as a state and nation. After centuries of foreign control through Portugal and Indonesia, people are looking for the roots of their identity. Traditional cultural norms, common law, and animism mixed with Catholicism determine life. But they are not unchangeable.

Everyday life & practical information

Timor-Leste – natural and untouched. This is how the Ministry of Tourism promotes the diverse country. Not only its cultural and scenic charms inspire again and again, but above all the encounters with people. Their attitude is determined by cordiality and also by dignity and pride in their country and culture.


Corruption, abuse of office and nepotism are widespread and increasing. The political system is determined by patronage, political clientelism and a lack of accountability. The strong dependence of the economy on government spending encourages nepotism. In the CNRT’s 2012 election campaign, the ten largest donors with individual pledges of up to $ 250,000 were the biggest beneficiaries of government contracts. Almost all of the international companies that have won major contracts have been involved in corruption or campaign funds for contract scandals in their own countries.

Although the government is trying to fight corruption, it lacks the will and a targeted anti-corruption strategy. International consultants and specialists also contribute to maintaining this system. There are significant corruption problems in numerous ministries. Allegations against politicians and family members take up a lot of space in the media. In December 2016, the court in Dili sentenced former Finance Minister Emila Pires in absentia – she is in Portugal – to seven years in prison for corruption. East Timor’s economic growth in recent years is primarily due to the award of public contracts, and companies that are politically and family-friendly should benefit from this.

On November 9, 2018, hundreds of students demonstrated against Parliament’s decision to buy new Toyota Prados for the 48 recently elected MPs and offer outgoing MPs their company cars at an artificially low price of $ 8,000 per car. The student activists see this as a form of “legal corruption” in which political elites misuse public funds for their private gain. Instead of listening to the students’ complaints, Fundasaun Mahein criticized, the government reacted to the peaceful demonstration with violence. 22 people were arrested.

The security forces are said to be involved in gambling, prostitution, smuggling and human trafficking.

On the 2019 Index from Transparency International, the country ranks 93rd out of 180 countries (2018: 105; 2017: 91; 2016: 101st of 176 countries, 2015: 123rd out of 175 countries, 2014: 133rd).

In 2009, an anti-corruption agency (CAC) was set up, which started work in 2010 with some delay. An anti-corruption law has yet to be passed in parliament. In December 2012, former Justice Minister Lucia Lobato was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment by the Court of Appeal. On August 30, 2014, the president gave her an amnesty. On the 5th anniversary of the anti-corruption agency in February 2015, then Prime Minister Rui Araujo assured the agency the full support of the government. De Araujo had initiatives to fight corruption, which have not yet proven to be sufficiently effective. The effectiveness of the agency is sometimes made more difficult by the selection procedure for a commissioner in parliament. An absolute majority is required for appointment if at least two thirds of the MPs are present. There were always longer vacancies. Personnel strengthened occurred in 2019 Dr. Sergio Hornai took over the post for the period 2019-2023. The authority submits a report every year. She reports cases of alleged corruption to the public prosecutor’s office.

There is a cooperation in prevention work with Indonesia’s partner organization Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK).

Local non-governmental organizations expose abuses. With the participation of the population and stakeholders, they develop recommendations and solutions, such as the Center for Studies of Peace and Development (CEPAD). On December 9, 2013, on International Anti-Corruption Day, the organizations Luta Hamutuk, Fundasaun Mahein, Haburas Foundation, CEPAD and TLMC announced that they would jointly set up the Transparency International Chapter Timor-Leste (TIC-TL).

Timor-Leste Anti-corruption agency CAC

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