Subject: AFP: Police say watching for foreign criminals in E. Timor

Agence France Presse January 19, 2000, Wednesday

Police say watching for foreign criminals in E. Timor

DILI, East Timor, Jan 19

UN police here said Wednesday they were watching for attempts by foreign crime syndicates to infiltrate this severely damaged territory.

"It's an issue because we are aware that it has been basically an open territory. We haven't had a customs service. We haven't had an immigration service," said Superintendent Graeme Cairns, a New Zealand police officer who heads the detachment of UN civilian police in the capital, Dili.

Diplomatic and law enforcement sources say East Timor is a potential target for penetration by overseas criminals engaged in drug smuggling and other rackets.

The territory's National Consultative Council, a type of cabinet, last week said it planned to pass a law to combat any illicit money flows through the territory.

Most of East Timor's housing, commercial and government infrastructure were destroyed or damaged during a September campaign of murder, arson, looting and forced relocation of people by militias backed by Indonesian armed forces.

The violence followed an August 30 vote in which East Timorese voted for independence from Indonesia. Since October 25, the territory has been under UN administration.

Cairns heads a detachment of about 75 police officers in Dili and 10 more at the airport - not enough, say law enforcement sources concerned that the police here are understaffed and under-equipped.

UN police have one officer at the Dili detachment and another at headquarters to compile information on possible threats. Cairns said the monitoring should help alert the police to criminal infiltration.

"I think we will hear about it through the intelligence side," he told AFP.

Another six officers do background checks in Australia, and through Interpol, on business people trying to set up in East Timor.

"That's probably the key safeguard at the moment," Cairns said. "You can't set up a business here until you've got the approval."

A spokesperson for the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) said nearly 300 businesses had registered under the system set up about seven weeks ago.

"There was an awareness that this could possibly happen, that you could get shady business people coming in, trying to rip off the locals," Cairns said.

East Timor's first judges and prosecutors were appointed on January 7 and UN police began basic passport checks on passengers arriving at the airport only on January 3.

"In all honesty, we probably don't do that as well as the specialists," Cairns said. New Zealand experts will arrive shortly to help with the customs and immigration functions, he said.

The airport still has no X-ray machine. Like most things of value in East Timor, it disappeared with the exodus of the militias, Indonesian soldiers and police.

Cairns said he did not see any local market for illegal drugs dealt by foreign syndicates.

"But I suppose it's possible that they could see Timor as a way of getting into Australia," only a 90-minute flight away, he said.

In an attempt to monitor the movement of currency, the National Consultative Council last week passed a regulation that the import of any currency worth more than 10,000 dollars, or the export of more than 5,000 dollars worth, must be reported.

Luis Mendoca, senior economist with the International Monetary Fund, said this was also a way to protect against money laundering. Many other countries have similar restrictions on currency flows.

The consultative council, which includes East Timorese and UNTAET representatives, also passed into law its intention to issue a further regulation "to enhance its capabilities in combating any illicit flow of monies into and from East Timor effectively."

Mendoca, who is stationed in East Timor, said the regulations were passed at the request of the East Timorese council representatives. But he said the law did not mean there was already a problem with illicit funds.

"I think we don't have any evidence that is happening. I don't think it is a concern," Mendoca said.

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