Subject: AU: Banker faces Timor court

Australian

Banker faces Timor court

By Sian Powell 05aug03

THE ANZ Bank manager in East Timor, Kirk McNamara, faced court in Dili yesterday on criminal charges that he had stolen doors from a house owned by the brother of Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

The doors disappeared after the riots in Dili last December, when disaffected East Timorese trashed property belonging to the Alkatiri clan, including the house owned by Bader Alkatiri and rented by the ANZ Bank for Mr McNamara. A house owned by the Prime Minister was burned down.

It was thought the dispute had been settled some weeks ago, but it re-emerged last week when it became known that Mr McNamara's stint in East Timor was over and he was returning to Darwin.

Mr Alkatiri apparently spurned the bank's offer to return the doors, which had been stored by a well-wisher of Mr McNamara's. The prosecutor sought a jail term for Mr McNamara, and his passport was confiscated last Friday.

ANZ general manager Asia-Pacific Rob Goudswaard said the matter was unfortunate. "We are not guilty of any of these charges; we strenuously deny them," he said.

Mr McNamara lost many of his personal possessions in the riots, and the ANZ Bank lost several thousand dollars worth of goods stored in the house.

The wrangle is the latest to dog the East Timorese judicial system, which was recently mired in confusion when the only Supreme Court judge ruled that national law should be based on Portuguese rather than Indonesian law.

This latest case will further erode international confidence in the rule of law in a nation desperate for foreign investment.

ANZ spokesman Paul Edwards said the wrangle would be considered extremely seriously.

"It's obviously of concern for us, that we have an apparent circumstance where the legal system is difficult to interpret," he said.

An East Timorese judge yesterday dismissed the criminal charges against Mr McNamara, but left the way open for civil proceedings.

It remained unclear, Mr Edwards said, whether Mr McNamara was free to leave the new nation.

An East Timor director of regional affairs, Roberto Cabral, said that while he was unaware of the details of Mr McNamara's case, he did not believe it was a cause of concern for international corporations.

"I don't think there is a problem," he said.

"All the legal procedures we have will suit foreign investors in Timor L'este."

© Herald and Weekly Times


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