SHARE
East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao

East Timor alleged in a legal action that agents acting for Australia illegally seized documents from a lawyer in a dispute over a multibillion-dollar oil-and-gas deal, the International Court of Justice said Wednesday.

The case was filed at the United Nations’ highest court. At issue is a 2006 deal for sharing seabed oil-and-gas reserves between the two countries.

Australia’s secret service raided the home of East Timor’s lawyer this month, the evening before an arbitration hearing in the case.

“The lawyer, Bernard Collaery, claims that Australia bugged the Cabinet office of the fledgling East Timorese government before negotiations that paved the way for the oil and gas revenue sharing deal,” the AP said.

The raids was apparently meant to uncover evidence about the source for Collaery’s allegations of spying by Australia.

East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao slammed the raid as “counterproductive and uncooperative.”

East Timor is arguing at the Permanent Court of Arbitration that the alleged espionage invalidates its revenue deal with Australia.

At the International Court of Justice, East Timor wants return of the siezed documents and protection of confidentiality and it attorney-client privilege.

Cases at the International Court of Justice can take years to resolve, the AP said, and the court’s decisions are final and legally binding.

No date has been set for a hearing in the matter.