Central Bank Confirms $7.6B in Burmese Funds Held in Overseas Accounts

A US $100 dollar bill sits beside the kyat equivalent. (Photo: Giles Orr)

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s Central Bank chairman confirmed recent claims that the government holds billions of dollars of foreign reserves in overseas bank accounts. He said on Friday that a total US $7.6 billion was kept offshore by Burmese state-owned and private banks.

Central Bank Chairman Kyaw Kyaw Maung, President’s Office Minister Soe Thein and Deputy Energy Minister Myint Zaw held a general press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday morning.

Asked by The Irrawaddy about recent reports that claimed that the government held up to $11 billion in several bank accounts in Singapore, Kyaw Kyaw Maung said the claims were partially true.

“We only keep $7.6 billion [abroad] legally,” he told reporters. “These are foreign exchange reserves; it includes national [government] budget funds as well as privately-held accounts.”

“We use it when needed,” the bank chairman said, adding, “We don’t know about the $11 billion that people are talking about.”

Kyaw Kyaw Maung declined to specify in which offshore locations and banks the $7.6 billion in Burmese funds were held. He also failed to clarify exactly how much of these funds were government-owned and how much was in private company hands.

The Central Bank, the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank and the Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, are among the government institutions that have overseas foreign reserves, Kyaw Kyaw Maung said, adding that several private Burmese banks also owned part of the $7.6 billion.

Deputy Energy Minister Myint Zaw denied past claims made by international non-government organizations (NGOs) that the overseas billions had been generated from the export of Burma’s natural gas.

Last week, Jelson Garcia, Asia Program Manager with the Banking Information Center (BIC), said World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Monetary Fund officials informed him in 2012 that Burma’s government held up to $11 billion in several Singaporean bank accounts.

“These were estimates given to us […] I drew it from our meetings with the WB and ADB staff,” Garcia told The Irrawaddy on Sept. 13.

He said ADB staff told him that Burmese government officials had disclosed to ADB the existence of an estimated $7 billion in government funds in Singaporean banks. According to Garcia, ADB officials considered Naypyidaw’s decision to lift the secrecy surrounding these accounts “encouraging.”

BIC, a US-based non-profit organization, monitors international financial institutions like the ADB and the World Bank, which have recently begun reengagement with Burma, after President Thein Sein’s government announced wide-ranging political and economic reforms.

Earth Rights International (ERI) has said that the billions of dollars in Singapore were stashed there by Burma’s former military junta, which for many years earned hundreds of millions of dollars annually from natural gas exports, much of which was siphoned off and pocketed by members of the regime.

In 2009, ERI claimed to have received evidence showing that the military regime had excluded almost $5 billion in revenues—generated from the Yadana Gas project operated by oil giants Total and Chevron—from the country’s national budget.

An ERI investigation found that the funds had been parked in two Singapore-based banks—the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation and DBS Group—which functioned as “offshore repositories.” The banks have denied the allegations.

8 Responses to Central Bank Confirms $7.6B in Burmese Funds Held in Overseas Accounts

  1. Who the hell will believe what they say? No state fund should be held secretly like that. Who knows how much amount is held in foreign banks? They started revealing one by one because media is about to reveal the truth. $ 7.6 Billion is extremely huge money for a country like Myanmar. However, this may be just a small portion from all the money our so-called heroes(generals) stole from state fund. Their houses, their cars, their silver and gold, their diamonds, their mistresses are too much compared to their legal salaries. Stealing, robbing and cheating have been their ways of life for the past 50 years. I feel so ashamed of these generals and their cronies.

  2. Siphoning state fund has been happening since 1962 to Thein Sein administration. This is one of the reasons these generals want to hold on to power with any means.

  3. They are selling the country right and left as if there is no tomorrow and yet the money is stashed away in Singapore banks. We don’t even know the allotments between privately owned versus government funds. Transparency means nothing in Myanmar. Meanwhile private organizations are taking care of health and education for the poor. How nice! We must be nuts to let them rule the country again. Please help me understand the logistics.

  4. Singapore Banks are a great liars. Burma ( Now Myanmar ) held money bllions of dollars, but they deny that no money was kept by military junta. This sun of a gun will never be friend with any body, they are just waiting to make use of Burma for their benefits.

  5. A good thing the chairman of the CB partially opens up.
    But the opaqueness as to the use of it should be investigated by the Myanmar parliament and relevant NGOs, if further details are not forthcoming.
    I have the hunch that rather than drawing and pocketing the funds for private use, it is more likely that the former Sr General used them for his pat, fancy projects such as rhe construction of Naypyidaw, the “escape” or “hiding” tunnels and the Thabeikkyin Nuclear project. But that is only a hunch, which may prove untrue.

  6. Show us the detail transaction records that the government is telling the truth. Or they are caught in the act of robbing the nation. It is just the beginning. More evidence will be revealed anyway.

  7. Money laundering, killing citizens, crazy for power and womanizing are their ways of life. The more they have, they more they want. Now, they are making themselves a laughing matter to all of us.

  8. Interesting! Any reason why after saying that they do not have such accounts only now they are admitting? Are they thick enough to try to be evasive about such things? The world have changed and very few things can remain secrets these days. Like some countries in Europe few country can gain from the ill-proceeds of others and Singapore must be well aware of that. Daw Suu is not that dumb not to know either. In Parrita we asked for protection against rulers and thieves among others but as in Burma if the rulers are themselves thieves then we need to ask for double protection.

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