Transnational Crime Activities at the International border between Timor-Leste and Indonesia

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Press Release

In 2010, a report by Fundasaun Mahein (FM) identified the land border of the Republic of Indonesia (RI) and the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (RDTL), as an area which is used by organized crime groups (OCG’s) for their illegal activities. This has included cross-border infiltration by air, land and sea, as these OCG’s know that the border territory is porous and easy to cross, due to a lack of control by security authorities, who lack the equipment, facilities and capacity for detecting and preventing illegal border crossings. FM has previously recommended that both the RDTL and RI enact stronger joint border control mechanisms to deter and counter the activities of OCG’s engaging in transnational crime across their shared border.

At the end of 2016, FM’s monitoring in Covalima identified supects from Atambua-Indonesia and Covalima-Timor-Leste, where an OCG created a credit system for clients requiring local currency to establish businesses. However, before they receive such credits they have to fulfill the criteria to be a member by providing an administation fund. The credits are leant from a company based in Atambua – Indonesia called COMPANHIA MITRATIN GROUP Lda, run by an Indonesian citizen (a Timorese refugee who lives in Atambua ) who works as the commissary for the company, and its board is Dili is led by a Timorese man working as program manager. Their clients are based in Ainaro, Bobonaro and Covalima Disctricts. This company while lending credits to its clients, also seeks to recruit new ones. Yet, FM has determined that the company has no licence for performing such activities, and consider it to be illegal, as it manipulates its clients in order to gain its own benefit.

FM identified as well around 6000 vehicles (cars and motorbikes) imported from Indonesia illegally to Timor-Leste from 2000 through to 2016. The majority of these vehicles cross the border at security checkpoints, facilitated by security authorities at the border. FM understands that these vehicles are being stolen by OCGs in Indonesia, who rent the vehicles in Java then transport them to the province of Nusa Tengara Timur (NTT), from where they are moved across the RI-RDTL border.

Indonesian security authorities have arrested numerous suspects purported to be involved in these activities, who were arrested when attempting to send the vehicles from Java to NTT, Kupang. FM understands these OCG networks to be based in Yogyakarta and Kupang. Once these stolen vehicles (Xenia and Avanza models) arrive in Dili, they are sold for between US $7500 and $12 000, with their number plates changed from Indonesian registration to that of Timor-Leste.

The PNTL has an agreement with Indonesian National Police (POLRI) to combat contraband activities on the RI-RDTL border. However, it has proven difficult for them to identify those stolen vehicles once they have been smuggled into Timor-Leste. FM also believes that these vehicles are not only purchased by individuals, but by powerfully placed individuals and groups within Timor-Leste. That the majority of vehicles pass through security checkpoints on both sides of the RI-RDTL border signifies that the elements within the security forces on both sides of the border are complicit in these illegal activities, and directly facilitate the movement of contraband goods by OCG’s.
This illegal importation racket may be being used to generate additional income for customers buying these vehicles in bulk orders in Timor-Leste. Therefore, the PNTL should be actively seeking to identify the vehicles involved in these transactions, in order to identify those individuals and/or groups who are taking advantage of this for their own self-interest. Increased monitoring of cross-border vehicle traffic would be the best means of determining their delivery locations, those responsible for distribution and their customers.

It also essential that the agencies responsible for vehicle registration, and the purchase and distribution of state vehicles, The National Directorate of Land Transportation (DNTT) and The Ministry of Pubic Reconstruction, Transport and Communications (MOPTK), use the mechanisms available to them to verify that vehicles delivered with “Kareta Estadu” (State Car) markings are actually purchased legitimately.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2009, between the POLRI and the PNT to combat transnational crime along the border also needs to be strengthened, towards effective implementation on both sides of the border.


1.Security authorities of RI and RDTL need to strengthen coordination and cooperation, in terms of management, detection and control along the border territory between RI and RDTL.

2.Security authorities of Timor-Leste must continue to investigate the cases described above, towards identifying those involved, inclusive of OCG members, complicit security actors, and purchasing agents and customers knowingly engaging in illegal activities,

For more details on this issue, please consult the following:



Nélson Belo
Executive Director of FM
Phone: +670 78316075 or 7756 1184

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