Por­tuguese cou­ple de­tained in Dar­win af­ter ar­riv­ing by boat from Ti­mor-Leste

The Guardian Australia - - News / World News - Helen David­son

Two Por­tuguese na­tion­als con­victed of em­bez­zling more than $800,000 from Ti­mor-Leste have been de­tained by Aus­tralian Bor­der Force af­ter ap­par­ently flee­ing Dili in a boat and ar­riv­ing at the Dar­win Sail­ing Club.

Guardian Aus­tralia un­der­stands the duo ar­rived be­tween Wed­nes­day even­ing and early Thurs­day morning at the club on the out­skirts of Dar­win, and were de­tained by Aus­tralian au­thor­i­ties.

One per­son said the boat was still on the beach on Thurs­day morning. He de­scribed it as a 4.5-5m power boat “that a lot of peo­ple from bor­der force were in­ter­ested in”.

“The In­done­sian-branded jerry cans might have given it away,” he said, adding the 90-horse­power out­board ap­peared to have a Dar­win busi­ness sticker on it.

Bor­der Force con­firmed two Por­tuguese na­tion­als were de­tained “af­ter ar­riv­ing un­law­fully in Dar­win”, but said it could not com­ment fur­ther as in­ves­ti­ga­tions were con­tin­u­ing.

Bor­der Force would not con­firm the iden­ti­ties of the cou­ple, but an ar­rest war­rant re­quest from the Ti­mor-Leste mag­is­trate of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions of­fice, pro­vided to Ti­morese me­dia and seen by Guardian Aus­tralia, says the pair are Ti­ago Luis de Vil­hena Tex­eira Guerra and Chang Fong Fong Guerra.

The cou­ple were ar­rested in Oc­to­ber 2014 at Dili air­port, and this year sen­tenced to eight years in prison on charges of em­bez­zle­ment.

The let­ter out­lin­ing the re­quest said prose­cu­tors had been in­formed by an Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice of­fi­cer on Thurs­day that the of­fi­cer had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion the pair were in Dar­win “and will con­tinue their trip to Por­tu­gal”.

The pair’s pass­ports had been con­fis­cated, but the let­ter al­leged the Por­tuguese em­bassy is­sued them new pass­ports “to en­able them to es­cape to Dar­win by boat”.

“As the de­fen­dants are vi­o­lat­ing the mea­sures ap­plied to them in the form of ban­ning them to over­seas travel … [we] re­quest the is­suance of ar­rest war­rant, for fur­ther ex­tra­di­tion from Dar­win, Aus­tralia, to Ti­mor-Leste for due le­gal ef­fect.”

Aus­tralia has no ex­tra­di­tion treaty with Ti­mor-Leste.

The pair were held on re­mand in Ti­mor-Leste af­ter be­ing ar­rested, but it is un­clear for how long. Five months af­ter their ar­rest, Por­tu­gal­based sup­port­ers said Ti­ago Guerra was be­ing held in Dili’s Bec­ora jail with­out charge, and that his part­ner was un­able to leave the coun­try. Their chil­dren are be­lieved to be in Por­tu­gal.

Fam­ily and sup­port­ers have cam­paigned on be­half of the pair since their ar­rest, claim­ing Guerra has been sub­ject to un­hy­gienic con­di­tions, a lack of med­i­cal care and a lack of jus­tice.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports trans­lated by Ti­mor-Leste based hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion L’ao Ha­mu­tuk, the cou­ple were ac­cused of di­vert­ing money from taxes levied on oil com­pa­nies to a Nige­rian man, Bobby Boye, through a Ma­cau com­pany.

Boye, who had been hired as a con­sul­tant to the Ti­mor-Leste gov­ern­ment, was ar­rested by the FBI in the US in June 2015 and even­tu­ally pleaded guilty in a sep­a­rate case to de­fraud­ing the Ti­mor Leste trea­sury of about US$3.5m. He was sen­tenced to six years in prison in the US.

A pe­ti­tion, re­port­edly signed by more than 3,500 peo­ple, was de­liv­ered to the Por­tuguese gov­ern­ment last month, call­ing on it to ex­tra­dite the cou­ple from Ti­mor-Leste.

A week ear­lier the cou­ple lodged an ap­peal, claim­ing the case was “full of in­con­sis­ten­cies and con­tra­dic­tions”. The ap­peal, ex­pected to progress slowly through the Ti­morese jus­tice sys­tem, had not yet been de­cided when the pair ap­par­ently fled.

Late on Mon­day Bor­der Force con­firmed the cou­ple were still de­tained in Aus­tralia.

The Por­tuguese em­bassy has been con­tacted for com­ment.

Raimun­dos Oki con­trib­uted to this re­port.

The beach out­side the Dar­win Sail­ing Club, where the yacht landed. Pho­to­graph: Helen David­son for the Guardian

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