DILI (TOP) – According to the New Testament, "God raised him from the dead", He ascended to heaven, to the "right hand of God", but the resurrection process of the company Ensul Meci-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, S.A, from its death in Caparica, Portugal is not the same because the company took about a year to revive in Colmera, Dili Timor-Leste.
The Special Investment Agreement that was held between the Timor-Leste government and the Ensul Meci-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, SA, on Friday 16 April 2010 was bankrupt and was buried in Caparica, Portugal but after that it has returned to life in Colmera, Dili, Timor- Leste under the name Ensul Engenharia, S.A.
Contract Position Assignment Agreement (acordo cessão posição contratual) with Ensul Engenharia, S.A which revived Ensul Meci from its grave in Portugal on 13 June 2013. Following this bankruptcy, Ensul Meci entered into a Contract Position Assignment Agreement with Ensul Engenharia, S.A as its successor to continue the investment in Timor-Leste.
The age of the special investment agreement is already 10 years old, but the implementation process of this investment agreement is suspected to have caused several violations.
According to the Special Investment Agreement document accessed by The Oe-Kusi Post (TOP), previously the Timor-Leste government ratified the Ensul Meci Investment Project on Wednesday, April 14, 2010 through government resolution number 22/2009 issued on October 28, 2009.
Two days later, the Minister of Economy and Development João Mendes Goncalves, representing the Timor-Leste government, signed a Special Investment Agreement with the Ensul Meci-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, S.A company on Friday 16 April 2010 in Dili.
The first page of this investment agreement describes the profile of the company Ensul Meci as a sociedade anónima which was established in Portugal with offices in Rua Facho n.0 26, Monte da Caparica, 2829-509 Caparica, Portugal, and Ensul Engenharia, S.A, as its branch in Timor -Leste represented by Rui Manuel de Faria de Sousa and Constantio Estevez Paramés.
The agreement in the destination section number 3 that the State grants all rights and privileges to Ensul Meci to use and enjoy the land covering an area of 22,635.00 m2 in Colmera, Dili to make and implement anything in accordance with its investment plan.
The special investment agreement document that TOP accessed states that the duration of this agreement is "worse" than the Timor Gap treaty. This special agreement gave 50 years, plus 49 years for Ensul to use the Colmera land to invest. Following the signing process of this agreement, the Ensul Meci company was declared bankrupt by the Lisbon commercial court, Portugal on 18 June 2012.
“Judge of Law, Elisabette Assunção through the Commercial Court of Lisbon, Portugal has decided and declared bankruptcy to Ensul Meci-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, SA, NIF - 501576304, address: Rua do Facho, No 26, Monte de Caparico, 2829-512 CAPARICA on June 18, 2012, ” the Lisboa commercial court decision that TOP accessed.
The reaction of the Timor-Leste government to Ensul Meci's bankruptcy
After the Lisbon commercial court decision Timor-Leste government through the State Secretariat for Private Sector Support and Promotion (SEAPRI) Veneranda Martins Lemos write a letter to Ensul Meci insolvent administrator Jorge Fialho Faustinho on 26 February 2013 that the Timor-Leste government had aware of the company's bankruptcy and asked to take a good decision to safeguard the interests of the government of Timor - Leste with regard to the special investment.
According to the correspondence between SEAPRI and Ensul Meci that TOP accessed, SEAPRI had to wait for a response letter for several months because after the bankruptcy of Ensul Meci, on June 13, 2013 a Contract Position Assignment Agreement (acordo cessão posição contratual) appeared between Ensul Meci and Ensul Engenharia in Lisbon, Portugal.
“This agreement shows that even though Ensul Meci is already bankrupt but has come back to life under the name Ensul Engenharia, S.A, which just started building a 16-storey building in 2013 until now has not been completed,” a local businessman told TOP.
This agreement was signed by Jorge Manuel e Seiça Dinis Calvete as the representative of the bankrupt Ensul Meci with Alexandre António da Silva Costa Marques Couto as the representative of Ensul Engenharia, S.A.
Meanwhile, another correspondence letter between SEAPRI and Ensul Engenharia, S.A that TOP accessed, after the signing of the Contract Position Agreement, on September 14, 2013 the President of the Engenharia Ensul Board, S.A., Alexandre António da Silva Costa Marques Couto replied to SEAPRI's letter that the judicial process that had been hampered his investment process and promised that he would accelerate his investment in Timor-Leste.
“The proof shown, it has been 10 years that only one building has 16 floors and has not provided training to local workers in the country following the contents of the special investment agreement,” said a local businessman.
Another correspondence letter that TOP accessed, on 1 October 2013 SEAPRI also sent a letter to Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão. In the contents of the letter, SEAPRI asked the Prime Minister to find a joint solution to stop Ensul Meci's investment because he had violated a special investment agreement. The same letter was given to Ensul Engenharia, S.A., which was received on 8 October 2013.
SEAPRI's letter, dated September 14, 2013, explained to Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão that the company ENSUL Engenharia, SA sent a letter to SEAPRI and was attached with several documents showing that Ensul Meci-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, SA was bankrupt since June 14, 2012 and on 13 June 2013, namely, after being declared bankrupt, the Ensul Meci-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, SA signed with the 'Ensul-Engenharia, SA' Contract Assignment Agreement ' based on the Special Investment Agreement.
“If, before bankruptcy was declared, ENSUL MECI-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, SA did not comply with the Agreement, it is our strong belief that after the declaration of bankruptcy, the oversight, definitive and guilty impossibility of complying with the Agreement has therefore been configured, since the bankruptcy declaration, it is factually and legally impossible, ”the contents of SEAPRI's letter to the Prime Minister which TOP accessed.
“If ENSUL MECI-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, S.A - motivated by bankruptcy - is sure to fail to fulfill the Special Investment Agreement, then transfer of contract positions is also legally impossible. Finally, we understand that the Special Investment Agreement does not provide for the possibility of termination of a contractual position. The legal interpretation which is made of the Agreement and which justifies the transfer of the position of the contract does not have the opportunity and legal basis”.
“However, we understand that the Special Investment Agreement is clearly not complied with by ENSUL MECI-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, S.A. and that the transfer of the contract position to ENSUL-Engenharia, S.A. legally null and void and has no effect on the State".
“However, if land and facilities are transferred to Ensul Meci-Gestão Projectos de Engenharia, SA, the reality is that this is being exploited commercially by Ensul-Engenharia, SA, by the company that operates the supermarket" PÁTEO "and by companies that explore car stands and workshops "ENTREPOSTO".
The conclusion of a SEAPRI point is that, up to this point, it is important to remember that communication of Special Investment Agreement resolutions presupposes a request for the surrender of land and facilities, free and expense, from a person and which would involve transferring the company's facilities to another.
The response letter from Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão accessed by TOP with reference number /385/GPM/X/2013 asked SEAPRI to find out more about the future of this investment.
After SEAPRI sent a letter to the Prime Minister and Ensul Engenharia, S.A, the Ensul did not answer SEAPRI's letter but instead reported directly to the Prime Minister. President of the Ensul Engenharia Board, S.A, Alexandre António da Silva Costa Marques Couto reported SEAPRI to the Prime Minister on 21 October 2013 that the letter they received from SEAPRI on 8 October 2013 shocked them and made them feel worried.
"The letter surprised us and felt very worried," said António Couto's letter which TOP accessed.
And on October 17, 2013, the President of the Administrative Council of Ensul Alexandre Marques Couto replied to a letter from SEAPRI that so far there was always up-to-date information to the parties concerned about the progress of their investment projects.
According to other information that TOP accessed, Central Sociedade Comercial (CSC), S.A was established in Dili in 2014 (Timor Leste eProcurement Portal; exporters.sg), allegedly Compagnie Financiere Terria, SA (CFT, S.A) as an affiliate of CSC, S.A, and Ensul Engenharia, S.A founded by António Simoes Marques Couto in 2000 (LinkedIn). Antonio Simoes Marques Couto: as honorary consul of Timor-Leste to Portugal. In 2000 he came to Timor-Leste (Fundacao aip - in Portugese).
There are two types of investment, namely public investment with funds from the government, and private investment with funds from the investors themselves. The special investment agreement signed between the Timor-Leste government and Ensul Meci in 2010 is a private investment.
Not yet paid land rental fees
Ensul's special investment agreement, which took effect on Wednesday, April 14, 2010, is already 10 years old on Thursday April 16, 2020, but it is suspected that there has been no land lease agreement with the ministry of justice.
According to a source from the cabinet of the ministry of justice, Ensul has tried several times to meet with the Minister of Justice Manuel Carceres to discuss land that Ensul is currently exploring, such as supermarkets PÁTEO, Entreposto and others, but Minister Carceres does not agree with Ensul's reputation. which is not good, and he also lacks confidence that Ensul will be able to make major investments in Timor-Leste. Thus, to date there is no a land agreement between Ensul and the Ministry of Justice.
“The minister doesn't believe them because they just come to lie to us. They came to lie to us after they got the land and then leased it back to another party, but they themselves did not invest,” a source from the Ministry of Justice's cabinet told TOP.
"The minister also disagrees with the amount of money to be paid for land rental fees, because according to him this amount is unfair, and does not benefit Timor-Leste".
Meanwhile, the Minister of Justice, Manuel Carceres, admitted that so far the owner of the Ensul had met him, but now they have disappeared because of Covid-19.
"They went to meet me, and they have disappeared," Carceres told TOP at Palásiu Governu Wednesday, November 25, 2020.
This government member who belongs to the Popular Liberation Party (PLP) also admits that Ensul does have a special investment agreement with the Timor-Leste government, but according to him it has been 10 years that Ensul has not had a land lease agreement with his ministry.
"If to rent the land, there must be a lease agreement with the Ministry of Justice. I have called him to come but because of Covid-19 they are still in Portugal, ” Carceres explained.
The amount stated in the special investment agreement regarding the cost of renting the land is $ 6,790.00 to the government. This payment came into effect on April 16, 2020, and the proof is that until December 2020 it is also suspected that Ensul has not paid the government.
To pay for the land lease starts on April 16, 2020. Until now, it has not been paid because they have no lease agreement yet, ”Minister Carceres explained.
Haven't paid taxes for 9 months
Minister of Justice Manuel Carceres admitted that from April 16 2020 to December 2020 or for 9 months Ensul had not paid land tax to the government. Because according to him, Ensul must have a lease agreement before he can pay it. As of April 14 to December 2020, Ensul will have to pay $ 61,110 in land rental fees to the government.
According to a source from the Timor-Leste Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI-TL) who is also a local entrepreneur, he has known António Couto since 2001. According to him, since 2001 the Ensul company has started winning many projects from the Timor-Leste government and also from international institutions in Timor-Leste.
"Especially projects from the European Union, as well as bilateral cooperation with Portugal and other Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP)," he explained and asked for his identity not to be mentioned in this news.
According to him, Ensul has not had a good reputation so far because according to him he still remembers that when Ensul won the Baukau hospital construction project was slow and did not run out according to the duration set by the government.
The local businessman also knew exactly about Ensul's investment in Timor-Leste, but he also questioned the financial capacity of this Portuguese company because the evidence had been for 10 years that Ensul had not succeeded in creating new jobs in the country.
“But they used the land to rent again to fellow Portuguese colleagues. Ensul only begs in Colmera, ”he explained his dissatisfaction to Ensul and the Timor-Leste government, who gave the land for free for 10 years and the investment returns were not there.
According to another local entrepreneur who since 2017 has rented a place in Dili Suqare recognized Ensul who received permission from the government to use the land in Colmera, but he was surprised when he signed a land lease contract not with Ensul but with Compagnie Financiere Terrie, SA ( CFT, SA).
“In 2017 I rented a place in the Centro Dili Square area. I signed a rental agreement with CFT, S.A, not Ensul, ”this local entrepreneur explained to TOP.
He added that the contra of the lease at that time was with Armando Jorge Dias as representatives of CFT, S.A and Gina Galucho as witnesses.
According to the document of the land lease agreement between this local entrepreneur and CFT, S.A as a commercial company under the name Compagnie Financiere Terria, S.A., which is registered in the commercial and company Luxembourg list with its branch office in Timor-Leste represented by Jaime Xavier and several colleagues.
The local businessman also remembers that in 2007 this foreign company had good relations with several politicians in Timor-Leste. He added that during the election campaign period in 2007, he suspected that the then Ensul had donated several luxury cars to a political party to be used during the campaign period. And after the election, the political party was also included in the government cabinet structure for the 2007-2012 period which held several important seats at that time.
The government member representing the Timor-Leste government signed a special investment agreement with Ensul Meci was the Minister of Economy and Development João Mendes Goncalves on April 16, 2010, and in 2012 the Portuguese company was declared bankrupt.
"Actually, the government should immediately stop Ensul's investment when it went bankrupt in 2012 but did not have time because it seems there are several politicians who support Ensul to continue investing," this local businessman explained.
There are several members of the government and some local businessmen who have been unsatisfied with the government's decision to give Ensul permission to use a very large area of land in the Colmera area, and the result has been that it has been 10 years since they only built one 16-story building but it hasn't been completed yet. And they suspect that Ensul is leasing this land again to supermarkets PÁTEO, CFT, S.A., and CFT of renting it back to local entrepreneurs in Timor-Leste.
This group of Portuguese businessmen has built several brands in Timor-Leste. These include the commercial center in the capital Dili, the PÁTEO supermarket which has about 500 products all from Portugal, as well as the Entreposto workshop which represents Ford.
However, according to a local businessman, the products in the PÁTEO supermarket are not all imported from Portugal but only bought in a Chinese supermarket in Dili.
"They only import alcoholic drinks from Portugal," said a local businessman.
But according to the Fan Page PÁTEO always promotes their products, all of them are authentic and imported from Portugal.
TradeInvest admitted there was a violation
The executive director of TradeInvest Timor-Leste, Arcanjo da Silva admitted that there were several violations committed by Ensul Meci and Ensul Engenharia in Timor-Leste but according to him that TradeInvest would still try to advise Ensul to continue investing in Timor-Leste.
"The government signed this agreement in 2010 but at that time Ensul stated that in just five years he could build four large buildings, but we should not blame him for obstruction from the Ministry of Public Works to grant construction permissions," the director Arcanjo explained to TOP in his office.
Although this situation occurs, Arcanjo argues that it is not permissible to give mistakes to public works because according to him they have also obeyed the rules, and the regulations state that they cannot give any construction permission to anyone.
Arcanjo added, so far TradeInvest always visits the Ensul construction project, and according to him this project is running very slowly because Ensul has complied with European construction quality standards.
"I believe in them that, once the construction is complete he will be the best in Timor-Leste, and will last for more than 100 years," explained director Arcanjo, which contradicts the Ministry of Justice Manuel Carceres' lack of confidence in Ensul.
The Director of TradeInvest, who is from Lautem, admits that, so far, there have been several violations committed by the Ensul company, as it has been 10 years but has not provided training to local workers in Timor-Leste, nor has created new jobs for 3000 people according to a special agreement investation.
"But I can't stop it because TradeInvest's vision and mission is to promote domestic and international investors in the country," Arcanjo explained.
Arcanjo also knows that, previously in 2013 the government through SEAPRI tried to stop this special investment agreement after the bankruptcy of Ensul Meci, but according to him the efforts made by SEAPRI at that time did not produce a definite decision.
Arcanjo describes Ensul Engenharia which is responsible for construction on the Colmera land, and the Dili Busines Financial Business Center (DFBC) which is mobilizing money to invest in Timor-Leste.
So far, there are several companies that have commercially exploited the land in Colmera, such as CFT, S.A, CSC, S.A, and DFBC BLOCK A, S.A, supermarkets PÁTEO, ENTREPOSTO, but according to the director of Arcanjo that TradeInvest only admits Ensul Meci and Ensul Engenharia, S.A., as investors.
Another document that TOP accessed was that, on 28 July 2015, the company Compagnie Financiere Terria, SA as a commercial company registered in Luxembourg and branching out in Timor-Leste sent a letter to Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo to inform only about the Contract Position Assignment Agreement (acordo cessão posição contratual) which was held on July 24, 2015.
According to several documents that revived Ensul Meci into Ensul Engenharia, S.A in Colmera, Dili, Timor-Leste are as follows;
- The government's efforts through SEAPRI in 2013 did not produce a definitive decision even though Ensul Meci was bankrupt and Ensul Engenharia, S.A had not complied with the Special Investment Agreement.
- Ensul Meci-Gestão de Projectos de Engenharia, S.A entered into a Contract Position Assignment Agreement with Ensul Engenharia, S.A in Lisboa, on June 13, 2013
- Ensul Engenharia, S.A entered into a Contract Position Assignment Agreement with Compagnie Financiere Terria, S.A on May 19, 2014
- And on July 24, 2015 CFT, S.A entered into a Contract Position Assignment Agreement with Dili Financial Business Center Block A, S.A (DFBC Block A, S.A).
For 10 years Ensul has not had any land lease contracts with the Ministry of Justice but the CFT company, SA ho CENTRAL-Sociedade Comercial, S.A (CSC, SA) used this opportunity to lease some of this land back to several local companies in 2017 which ended in major problems in 2018.
According to the protest documents that TOP accessed, some local companies that had rented space on this land paid very high prices to CFT, S.A and CSC, S.A even though the government had given permission to the bankrupt Ensul Meci.
- Jbede Alis with a total investment of $ 25,000.00, and rental fees to CFT, S.A and CSC, S.A are $ 1,200.00 per month, and deposited $ 3,600.00 as guarantee.
- Noemia Boutique total investment of $ 45,000.00, monthly rental fee of $ 1,200.00, and deposit of $ 3,300.00 as guarantee.
- Caffe U'ut with total investment of $ 46,000.00, pay monthly space fee of $ 1,500.00, deposit of $ 4,500.00 as guarantee.
- Harmony Fitness Center invests $ 3.00,000, and opens T-Shirt Printing under the name DMTEX with a total investment of $ 35,000, and pays $ 7,500.00 monthly space fee, $ 25,100.00 deposit as guarantee.
- Citilink Agency invests $ 25,000.00, and must pay monthly land lease of $ 1,200.00, and deposit $ 3,600.00 as guarantee
- May Sandes with a total investment of $ 30,000.00, monthly rental fee of $ 1,500.00, and a deposit of $ 3,600.00 as guarantee.
"The amount we paid to CFT, SA and CSC, S.A was just in vain, we paid for one year, but until now the company Ensul Engenharia, S.A and its group have not yet paid taxes to the Timor-Leste government," said a letter of protest from local company.
There are some comments that the character of some of the Timor-Leste leaders has always been tempted and believed in the deceit of foreign investors in Timor-Leste even though they did not have the financial capacity to invest in this country. The story of the Ensul investment is somewhat similar to the process of making the HAKSOLOK Ferry where the company that constructed the ferry allegedly bankrupt for a long time, resulting in even though the payment was 100% paid in 2017 but unfortunately to this day the HAKSOLOK Ferry has not arrived in Timor-Leste.
The Ensul has been contacted for comment but not immediately available for comment.