Timor-Leste
x

    Profile

    Timor-Leste

    Capital

    Dili

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 2,017.92 million

    Income group

    Lower middle income

    Population

    1,293,119

    Area

    14,870 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    3.97

    Criminality score

    147th of 193 countries

    41st of 46 countries in Asia

    9th of 11 countries in South-Eastern Asia

    Criminal market

    3.55

    Human trafficking

    4.00

    Human smuggling

    5.00

    Arms trafficking

    4.00

    Flora crimes

    3.00

    Fauna crimes

    5.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    2.00

    Heroin trade

    2.50

    Cocaine trade

    2.50

    Cannabis trade

    3.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    4.00

    Criminal actors

    4.38

    Mafia-style groups

    5.00

    Criminal networks

    4.00

    State-embedded actors

    4.50

    Foreign actors

    4.00

    3.67

    Resilience score

    148th of 193 countries

    36th of 46 countries in Asia

    9th of 11 countries in South-Eastern Asia

    Political leadership and governance

    3.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    3.00

    International cooperation

    3.50

    National policies and laws

    4.50

    Judicial system and detention

    4.00

    Law enforcement

    4.50

    Territorial integrity

    3.00

    Anti-money laundering

    4.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    3.00

    Victim and witness support

    3.50

    Prevention

    3.50

    Non-state actors

    4.50

    3.67 4.38 3.55 3.67 4.38 3.55

    3.67

    Resilience score

    148th of 193 countries

    36th of 46 countries in Asia

    9th of 11 countries in South-Eastern Asia

    Political leadership and governance

    3.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    3.00

    International cooperation

    3.50

    National policies and laws

    4.50

    Judicial system and detention

    4.00

    Law enforcement

    4.50

    Territorial integrity

    3.00

    Anti-money laundering

    4.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    3.00

    Victim and witness support

    3.50

    Prevention

    3.50

    Non-state actors

    4.50

    Analysis

    01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09

    People

    Timor-Leste is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. The majority of human trafficking cases are transnational in nature, with Timor-Leste acting as a country of origin. The primary type of trafficking in persons is associated with labour migration out of Indonesia. Additionally, domestic trafficking within Timor-Leste primarily involves children under the age of 18. It is also commonplace for rich families to‘adopt’ children from poor, rural families to pay off debts, which often results in domestic servitude and abuse. Sources allege that the national police force is deeply involved in running and controlling the local sex trade. Thus, many entrants through the airport or across the border, who are to be exploited, are not recorded.

    There is considerable human smuggling into Timor-Leste, including a high volume of irregular migration for the purpose of working on large construction projects in the country. Similar to human trafficking, police and immigration authorities are involved in facilitating human smuggling and no precise records of smuggled people are kept. It is alleged that most of the people smuggled are Chinese and to a lesser extent Bangladeshis, as well as Filipinos and Indonesians.

    Trade

    There is little evidence of a significant illicit arms market in Timor-Leste. Nevertheless, reports exist of light weaponry being trafficked from Indonesia; however, most of the weapons were either old arms or air guns. Similar to other criminal markets in the country, the national police force has a stake in arms trafficking, with the force being the main source of undocumented weapons entering the country.

    Environment

    There is little evidence of a significant flora crimes market in Timor-Leste, although there is some level of illegal logging occurring in the country, primarily of sandalwood. There are reports of possible wildlife smuggling from Timor-Leste via Indonesia. There are also reports of a small trade involving turtle shell products and bushmeat, as well as an extensive illegal fishing market. Foreign actors largely control the illegal wildlife market. Lastly, in regard to non-renewable resources crimes, there is no evidence of theft or smuggling of oil and gas in Timor-Leste. However, revenue from the legitimate trade of oil and gas is regularly and systematically diverted towards state-embedded actors in the country.

    Drugs

    Synthetic drugs are considered to be Timor-Leste’s largest drug market. Nevertheless, the size of the market pales in comparison to the synthetic drug markets of other countries in Asia, and Timor-Leste is not considered to be among the main trafficking routes of synthetic drugs in East and SouthEast Asia. According to the most recent data, the most common type of synthetic drugs consumed in the country was ecstasy; however, use of methamphetamine was also reported, although its use was less widespread and declining. Timor-Leste is a source, transit and destination country for a small-scale cannabis market. Furthermore, the market appears to be transnational and domestic in nature, with cannabis resin being trafficked from neighbouring countries, mainly Indonesia, and cannabis herb being grown locally, especially in the mountains. Profits seem to be accrued to both domestic and foreign actors. Heroin trafficking is one of the two smallest drug markets in the country, with Timor-Leste being a transit country for relatively limited amounts of heroin. Similar to heroin, the cocaine market in Timor-Leste is considered to be small, with evidence suggesting that the market is transnational in nature, and that Timor-Leste seems to be mostly a transit country, and to a lesser extent, a destination country.

    Criminal Actors

    The organized crime landscape in Timor-Leste is fairly diversified, with all types of criminal actors exerting similar, moderate levels of influence. Mafia-style groups include Martial Arts Groups (MAGs), Street Gangs and Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCGs); however, it should be noted that not all MAGs and OMCGs are mafia-style groups. Many members are involved in more than one group and most groups are involved in more than one criminal activity. Overall, the access of mafia-style groups to weapons is limited, with most groups relying on low-technology weapons. Moreover, there are many local criminal networks operating in Timor-Leste. Given the country’s location between South-eastern Asia and the South Pacific, it is an attractive location for organized crime networks wishing to smuggle illegal goods across or into the two regions.

    Given its location, foreign actors are also active in crime groups in Timor-Leste. Some MAGs are said to have originated in Indonesia. MAGs are also influenced by actors from West Timor and Java. Foreign-based syndicates from other parts of Asia are also believed to be involved in smuggling goods, the sex industry and money laundering through construction contracts and illegal and legal casinos. Meanwhile, the level of interaction between criminal groups and the state issignificant, as many state actors are also members of these groups. It is reported that the police are the main local criminal network in Timor-Leste. Furthermore, most mafia-style groups also have political affiliations and might attempt to influence the democratic process. Political parties also tend to affiliate themselves with certain MAGs, especially during election periods.

    Leadership and governance

    The government of Timor-Leste has not taken a strong public position against organized crime. While a 2010 law placed organized crime prevention as one of the main permanent objectives of the country’s national security policy, the law did not put forward a specific criminal market as a priority. At the same time, the government has been taking steps to address problems of transparency and accountability in the public sector by establishing different institutional oversight mechanisms to control corruption. The main oversight mechanism is an anti-corruption commission and an audit court. However, their effectiveness is deemed to be limited. Overall, the primary issue is not corruption as such, but rather entrenched nepotism.

    In regard to international cooperation, Timor-Leste has ratified five out of the 10 major international treaties and the related protocols on organized crime. The lack of adherence to all international instruments in this fieldcan be attributed to the fact that the country is considered a post-conflict society that is still struggling to establish the rule of law. It is also an indicator of the lack of willingness or capacity of the state to respond to organized crime. However, there is evidence that Timor-Leste has been taking some constructive steps to promote international cooperation in the form of law enforcement cooperation. At a national level, the legal framework of Timor-Leste criminalizes all organized crime-related offences. While the legislative framework in the country is sound, experts identify lack of enforcement as problematic. Furthermore, there are allegations of legislation being adopted without being read in parliament.

    Criminal justice and security

    Timor-Leste is assessed as a post-conflict society that is struggling to establish and maintain an effective criminal justice system. While judges are considered to be independent in the exercise of their functions, the total independence of the entire judicial system has not yet been achieved. Stemming from this are several concerns about the capacity of the judicial system and the lack of special units among the judiciary, including one tasked exclusively with prosecuting organized crime. Nevertheless, the judicial system in Timor-Leste has improved considerably over the past two decades, largely as a result of support from the United Nations Development Programme and bilateral partners, notably Portugal. The country has two law enforcement agencies, the effectiveness of which in combating organized crime is seen as weak, as several police officers were also members of gangs and criminal groups in Timor-Leste. While corruption is widespread across the general police force in the country, and there is also low trust in the police among local communities, the specialized law enforcement units in Timor-Leste are highly professional. In regard to its territorial integrity, the country possesses some natural vulnerability due to its geographic position. While border control is lacking, some initiatives to strengthen control have taken place fairly recently. In general, the lack of trained law enforcement officers is one of the most significant issues that Timor-Leste faces in its efforts to successfully tackle transnational organized crime.

    Economic and financial environment

    Although Timor-Leste has in place legal and institutional measures to combat money laundering, it lacks the necessary means to combat these activities. At the same time, the country does not present serious risk of money laundering due to the small size of the financial sector and has a scarcity of attractive mechanisms that allow the whitening of the proceeds of criminal activities. On the other hand, the almost completely unregulated construction and tourism sectors offer substantial opportunities for money laundering, which has become a concern for the Australian authorities. In terms of the general business environment, the government has some legal and institutional mechanisms in place to ensure that legitimate businesses operate free from criminal activities, especially regarding labour exploitation by business owners. Nevertheless, the relative ease of doing business in the country is very low.

    Civil society and social protection

    The extent to which Timor-Leste focuses on the assistance of organized crime victims depends largely on the type of crime. In the case of people who use drugs, the law states that treatment is the responsibility of the health ministry, which includes agreements with private entities to deliver the treatment to the patients. Additionally, individuals detained with small quantities of any type of drugs may be given therapeutic treatment and the prison sentence might be suspended. Regarding legislation protecting victims of trafficking, the country has legal provisions to ensure the access of victims to different assistance measures. However, protection services are assessed to be inadequate and for the fifth consecutive year, the government failed to finalize or approve procedures for victim identification. Furthermore, government officers and police investigators failed to identify and refer any potential victims of trafficking to protection services, and law enforcement regularly detain, and in some cases deport, foreign women involved in the sex industry, without screening them for trafficking indicators.

    The role of non-state actors in Timor-Leste seems to be mostly associated with the development of supportive and assistance measures for victims of human trafficking. However, some NGOs also play an important role in exposing cases of corruption among the government. Meanwhile, media freedom in the country is problematic, and journalists are systematically prevented from working freely by a combination of threats of prosecution, violence at the hands of the police and public criticism of various media outlets by the government. Additionally, most media outlets derive the bulk of their income from government advertising, which provides strong incentives for self-censorship.

    For a better experience, please rotate your device.

    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.