Burma’s Financial Intelligence Unit Probed Ne Win Family’s Investment

By The Irrawaddy 25 August 2014

RANGOON — Burma’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has investigated an investment in one of the country’s biggest banks by the grandson of the late dictator Gen. Ne Win, according to a senior official, who declined to disclose the results of the probe.

Last month a 1.5 percent stake in Asia Green Development (AGD) Bank was transferred to Kyaw Ne Win in a purchase thought to be worth more than US$555,000. The bank’s founder, Tay Za, has said he is looking to offload more of the bank, likely to the Ne Win family, due to difficulties resulting from his blacklisting by the US Treasury.

Police Colonel Kyaw Win Thein, the FIU’s deputy chief, told media last week that the unit had assessed the investment before it became public knowledge in July. He refused to say if the investigation turned up anything, but the transaction was allowed to go ahead.

“The investigation has now finished but we can’t publicly disclose it,” Kyaw Win Thein told reporters at a meeting on Thursday on anti-money laundering and financing of terrorism in Rangoon.

The FIU deputy chief did not say why the transaction was investigated, but news of the share transfer raised questions over whether the Ne Win family’s wealth was gained through illicit means.

At the time, Aye Ne Win, another grandsons of the ex-dictator, told The Irrawaddy that the China National Corporation for Overseas Economic Corporation (CCOEC), which is part of a Chinese state-owned conglomerate, was using the family company, Omni, to invest US$4.9 billion in various business sectors in Burma.

Aye Ne Win also said the family had agreed with Tay Za to buy a 60 percent stake in AGD Bank. However, Tay Za told reporters on Aug. 12 that he was reconsidering the deal for unspecified reasons.

The FIU deputy chief said that the unit—part of the Ministry of Home Affairs—had for the past two months been investigating a number of suspicious transactions and deposits in Burma’s banks as part of renewed efforts to tackle money laundering.

The FIU receives about 1,000 reports of suspicious transaction each month from the banks themselves, Kyaw Win Thein said, adding that more than 70 cases had been opened involving more than $200 million.

“Most of the money laundering is connected with the drugs trade and human trafficking. Some includes the trading of antiques too,” he added.

Thit Nay Moe contributed reporting to the story.