16 October 2015

Bobby Boye sentenced to six years in federal prison

On 15 October, a U.S. Federal Court ordered former Timor-Leste legal adviser Bobby Boye to serve six years in prison and repay $3.51 million dollars to Timor-Leste. Although the plea deal effectively ends the criminal case against Boye, many questions remain unanswered regarding the full costs of his crimes to Timor-Leste, as well as who else may have been involved in his schemes. We hope that investigations proceed.

In 2010, Norway hired the Nigerian-American “tax expert” to help Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Finance collect petroleum taxes more effectively, and Boye recommended revising legal documents and filing assessments against oil companies which he said had underpaid their taxes. In 2011, Boye’s pay began coming from Timor-Leste’s treasury, rather than from Norwegian Aid. He supplemented it by inventing a fake company “Opus & Best” and awarding them eight million dollars in contracts from Timor-Leste for legal drafting services.

Boye’s scheme began to unravel in 2013, and U.S. authorities arrested him in June 2014, charging him with seven counts of conspiracy and wire fraud for payments totaling $3.51 million dollars that Timor-Leste had sent to “Opus & Best.” Media attention highlighted his conspicuous spending of his ill-gotten gains, using them to buy luxury houses, cars and watches. Unfortunately, we have not seen much interest in repairing the weak systems that allowed his scheme to take place, or in finding out if Timor-Leste officials were involved, either by conspiracy or negligence.

La’o Hamutuk began researching public sources, and we quickly learned of many events in Boye’s life which should have prevented his employment – being banned from trading stocks, forgery, personal bankruptcy while concealing assets, conviction and imprisonment for embezzlement, nonexistent legal experience, fake business registration, among other things. A Norwegian journalist unearthed further information about his fraudulent educational claims, references and employment history. In July 2014, La’o Hamutuk wrote to U.S. prosecutors, providing information which we believed would help them understand the case and investigate it more effectively.

In April 2015, Boye pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, avoiding 140 years of prison time, as well as a trial which could have brought more information to light.  As negotiations proceeded on his sentence, we wrote to the prosecutors again, explaining that the cost of his crimes to Timor-Leste may have been fifty times more than the $3.5 million he stole directly.

On 15 October, U.S. Federal Judge Freda Wolfson sentenced Boye to six years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He will begin his prison time on 30 November, probably at the Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution in New Jersey, a former U.S Army base. The court also ordered Boye to pay $3.51 million in restitution to the U.S. Treasury, to be distributed to Timor-Leste's attorney Pierre-Richard Prosper of the Arent Fox law firm. The payment is due immediately, although a schedule may be worked out. The Court generously did not require Boye to pay interest (which could be a million dollars or more) and ignored La'o Hamutuk's explanation that Boye's crimes could cost Timor-Leste $176 million.

U.S prosecutors announced the sentence in a press release, which was reported in New Jersey media.

La’o Hamutuk has compiled a comprehensive, updated web page on this case, with links to many legal and other documents. We hope that the competent, responsible authorities in Timor-Leste will use it to help find out which Timor-Leste laws were violated, what systems must be fixed, and who else was involved in Boye’s crimes.

15 October 2015

Mai Enkontru Publiku kona-ba Projetu Tasi Mane

Projetu Tasi Mane nia Implikasaun ba Timor-Leste nia Ekonomia no Sosiedade
Kinta, 22 Outubru 2015    9:00–12:30
  Auditorium Liceu UNTL, Kaikoli, Dili

Timor-Leste nudár nasaun ne’ebé depende maka’as ba reseita mina-rai iha mundu: 73% estadu nia reseita iha 2014 mai hosi fa’an mina no gas, no 20% tan hosi reseita investimentu ne’ebé hosi Fundu Petrolíferu. Iha 2014, reseita petrolíferu tun 40% kompara ho tinan kotuk tanba folin mina-rai mundiál tun maka’as, no mós produsaun ne’ebé tun 24% tanba rezerva mihis ona – nivel produsaun másimu ita hetan iha 2012, hafoin ne’e komesa tun, no sei kontinua tun bainhira Kitan remata nia produsaun iha tinan ida ne’e, enkuantu Bayu-Undan remata depois tinan lima tan.

Planu Estratéjiku Dezenvolvimentu 2011-2030 fó informasaun balun kona-ba Projetu Tasi ManeSuai Supply Base, Refinaria Betano, LNG Plant Beaçu, no Auto-estrada Costa Súl. La’o Hamutuk fó preokupasaun boot ba projetu ne’e nia viabilidade ekonómika, impaktu meiu ambientál no sosiál sira ohin no ba futuru. Ami diskute ona ho ema balun hosi Governu, sosiedade sivíl no ajénsia internasionál sira, no haree katak ema barak iha preokupasaun hanesan ami.

Timor-Leste tama ona iha ‘malisan rekursu’ – katak estadu sira ne’ebé depende ba rekursu naun-renovavel, dala barak falla atu dezenvolve fonte rendimentu seluk tanba sira hanoin katak mina-rai sei nunka maran. Sira mós falla atu hadi’ak povu nia moris tanba la investe iha saúde, edukasaun no servisu esensiál sira seluk. Ita nia rekursu mina-rai sai maran, no agora iha ema barak ne’ebé mak rekoñese ona katak ita tenke diversifíka ita nia ekonomia atu salva ita nia an hosi dependénsia ba mina-rai.

Timor-Leste tenke halo avaliasaun kle’an liu tan kona-ba karik Projetu Tasi Mane ne’e sei fó vantajen ba povu Timor-Leste – projetu ne’e nia kustu billaun barak atu implementa, ne’ebé nia fonte sei ma hosi parte boot Timor-Leste nia riku soin mina-rai no gas. Projetu ne’e sei hamenus prioridade estadu nian ba saúde, edukasaun, sanitasaun no agrikultura, buat sira ne’ebé mak esensiál atu hadi’ak ita nia povu nia moris, dezenvolve ita nia rekursu umanus no dezenvolve ekonomia non-oil. Aleinde ne’e, projetu ne’e uza rai barak ne’ebé importante ba agrikultura, no ida ne’e sei hamenus produsaun agrikultura, no ita nia dependénsia ba importasaun hosi rai li’ur sei kontinua.

Enkontru públiku ne’e envolve aprezentasaun hosi Francisco Monteiro, Prezidente TimorGAP, no Juvinal Dias hosi La’o Hamutuk, no hafoin ne’e diskusaun. Ita aprende kona-ba TimorGAP nia planu no estratéjia sira. La’o Hamutuk fahe nia perspetiva kritika (PowerPoint ka PDF), no partisipante nain 150 halo diskusaun ba oras rua.

Come to a public meeting about the Tasi Mane Project

The Implications of the Tasi Mane Project for Timor-Leste’s Society and Economy
Thursday, 22 October 2015    9:00 – 12:30
Auditorium, UNTL Liceu campus, Kaikoli, Dili

Timor-Leste is one of the most petroleum dependent countries in the world: sales of oil and gas made up 73% of state revenues in 2014, and another 20% came from the investment of past oil income. However, in 2014, oil revenues fell by 40% compared to the previous year. This was partly a result of the fall in global oil prices, but was also largely due to the fact that production levels fell by 24% in the same period. Our oil is running out – production peaked in 2012, and will continue to fall as Kitan ends production this year, and Bayu-Undan ends around five years after that.

The Tasi Mane Project – the Suai Supply Base, Betano Refinery, Beaçu LNG Plant and South Coast Highway – is discussed in the national Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030. However, La’o Hamutuk has serious concerns about the economic feasibility of this project, as well its current and future environmental and social impacts. We have discussed this issue with people in Government, civil society and international agencies, and many of them share our concerns.

Timor-Leste is falling into the ‘resource curse’ – where states who depend on extracting non-renewable resources neglect sustainable alternative economic sectors because decision-makers believe that oil will last forever. They also fail to improve their people’s well-being by under-investing in public health, education and other essential services. As our oil deposits run out, more and more people inside and outside Government recognize that we must escape from petroleum dependency by diversifying the economy.

We need to consider carefully whether the Tasi Mane petroleum infrastructure project moves us in this direction – it will cost billions to implement, a significant fraction of Timor-Leste’s finite oil and gas wealth. This takes money away from health care, education, sanitation and agriculture, all of which are essential for improving quality of life, strengthening human resources and growing the non-oil economy. Also, these projects will take up valuable agricultural land, reducing productivity and continuing dependency on imports.

The following paragraph was revised after the meeting.
This public meeting began with presentations by Francisco Monteiro, President of TimorGAP and Juvinal Dias of La’o Hamutuk, followed by two hours of lively discussion among the 150 participants. They heard TimorGAP’s plans and dreams, as well as La’o Hamutuk's skeptical perspective (PowerPoint or PDF).