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Trying to Scam a Billion from the Petroleum Fund
Tentasaun Kambalasu Biliaun ida husi Fundu Petroleu

4 October 2010. Updated 11 July 2012.

In September 2009, the Minister of Finance received a proposal from "Asian Champ Investment Ltd," (ACI) a company represented by Datuk Edward Ong, the principal behind Pelican Paradise's proposed "five-star hotel" project in Tacitolu. ACI asked the Minister to deposit $1.2 billion in cash from the Petroleum Fund in their "blocked" account at Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). They said they would pay 7.5% interest in advance and return the money in a year. ACI told the Minister to make a decision within 15 days, and she asked the Investment Advisory Board (IAB) for advice. In a memo which was released a year later, the IAB recommended against ACI's proposal, urging that normal investment processes be followed, which do not include investments in cash. The IAB and Minister asked the BPA to prepare a report on the ACI proposal, which we have been unable to obtain.

In November, La’o Hamutuk learned about this attempt to scam Timor-Leste's Petroleum Fund, and researched the company, which may or may not exist. La’o Hamutuk’s repeated requests for information to the BPA, IAB and Ministry of Finance were declined or ignored. The Ministry asked us to hold off publishing, which we did although their promised information never came. The issue was mentioned several times on the BPA website, and La'o Hamutuk raised it in a BPA press conference, but local and international media never picked up on it, demonstrating that transparency also requires attention.

The IAB discussed the ACI proposal on 18 September23 October11 November20 November (including responding to an email from La'o Hamutuk) and 15 December 2009 (at which time the IAB Chairman incorrectly "noted  that the Minister had responded to La'o Hamutuk's request for further information"). More information became available only in September 2010, with the publication of the 2009 Annual Report on the Petroleum Fund, with its legally-required annex of all advice given by the IAB to the Minister.

Timor-Leste’s successful defense against this attempt to steal one-fourth of our Petroleum Fund shows the importance of strong laws and institutions, clear processes, defined criteria, and professional decision-making. La’o Hamutuk appreciates the diligence and attention of the people and organs involved, and we hope that these strengths are maintained. It also shows that our Petroleum Fund is a tempting target, and that many unscrupulous characters will be attracted by what they perceive as “easy money.”

After La'o Hamutuk revealed this scam on our blog, Fretilin raised it in Parliament and the media. The Ministry of Finance hadn't responded by the end of September.


In early July 2012, Australian (also Tetum) and local newspapers published articles with titles like "Talk is cheap on East Timor's financial future." In a secretly recorded 2010 conversation, IAB President Olgario de Castro boasted of millions of dollars to share with his friends, saying "I want the money, not the power," and making several comments related to the ACI scam. La'o Hamutuk's blog discusses these revelations, pointing out that $10 billion dollars owned by a small, impoverished, new nation with little experience is a tempting target for unscrupulous, greedy people.

Iha Setembru 2009, Ministra Finansa simu proposta ida husi “Asian Champ Investment Ltd,” (ACI) kompania ida ne’ebereprezenta husi Datuk Edward Ong, nia ida ne’ebe sefia proposta Pelican Paradis ba Projeitu  “Otel Cinco Estrelas” iha Tasitolu nia kotuk. ACI husu ba Ministra atu deposito biliaun $1.2 iha numerariu osan husi Fundu Petroleu iha sira nia konta “blokeadu” iha Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC). Sira hateten katak sira sei selu funan 7.5% ho avansu no fo fila osan iha tinan ida. ACI husu ba Ministra atu halo desizaun ida iha loron 15 nia laran, no Ministra husu konseillu husi Investment Advisory Board (Konsellu Konsultivu Investimentu/IAB). Iha memo ida ne’ebe fo sai ona iha depois tinan ne’eba, IAB rekomenda hodi kontra atu simu proposta ACI nian, ezizi katak hodi tuir prosesu investimentu normal nian, ne’ebe la inklui investimentu iha numerariu. IAB no Ministra husu ba ABP atu prepara relatoriu ida ba iha proposta ACI, ne’ebe ami labele hetan kopia relatoriu ida ne’e.

Iha Novembru, La’o Hamutuk aprende kona-ba tentasaun ba kambalasu Fundu Petroleu Timor-Leste nian, no halo peskiza ba kompania ne’e, ne’ebe eziste ka lae. La’o Hamutuk repete rekerementu ba informasaun ba ABP, IAB no Ministeriu Finansa ne’ebe dekliniu ka ignora tiha. Ministeriu Finansa husu ba ami atu adia publikasaun, ne’ebe ami halo tiha maske sira nia informasaun ne’ebe sira promete ba nunka mai. Asuntu ida ne’e mensiona ba dala barak ona iha ABP nia website, no La’o Hamutuk foti sai asuntu ida ne’e iha koferensia da imprensa ABP nian ida, maibe media lokal no internasional sira nunka mais atu foti asuntu ida ne’e sai, hodi demonstra katak transparansia mos presiza atensaun.

IAB diskute (hotu Ingles) proposta ACI nian iha loron 18 Setembru, 23 Outubru, 11 Novembru, 20 Novembru (inklui responde ba e-mail ida husi La’o Hamutuk) no 15 Dezembru 2009 (ne’ebe Prezidente IAB nian inkoretamente “nota katak Ministra responde ona ba La'o Hamutuk nian rekerimentu ba informasaun tan”). Informasaun barak mak bele hetan deit iha Setembru 2010, ho publikasaun Relatoriu Annual ba Fundu Petroleu, ne’ebe legalmente rekere Anexu ba konseillu tomak ne’ebe fo husi IAB ba Ministra.

Timor-Leste ho susesu duni fo defeza hodi kontra tentasaun atu nauk Ľ husi ita nia Fundu Petroleu hodi hatudu importansia husi haforsa lei no instituisaun sira, prosesu ne’ebe mos, defini kriteria, no foti desizaun ho profesional. La’o Hamutuk apresia ba matenek no atensaun husi povo no orgaun sira ne’ebe involve, no ami espera katak forsa sira ne’e tenke mantein. Ne’e mos hatudu katak ita nia Fundu Petroleu sai nudar tarjeitu ba tentasaun, hahalok laiha moral barak sei bele atrai husi buat ida ne’ebe sira persebe nudar “osan fasil.”

Depois La'o Hamutuk fo sai informasaun ida ne'e iha ita nia blog, Fretilen lori asunto ba  Parlamento Nasional no media. Ministra Finansas seidauk resposta.


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The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (La’o Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
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