Election 2020

Party Chairman Arrested on Fugitive Warrant has $18m in Assets: Myanmar Government

By Htun Htun 12 October 2020

Yangon — A controversial opposition party chairman who has been arrested as a fugitive has assets of around 23 billion kyats (US$18 million), according to Myanmar’s government.

U Kyaw Myint, also known as Michael Kyaw Myint or Michael Hua Hu, is the chairman of the United Democratic Party (UDP), better known as the Rose Party, and was arrested in Yangon on Sept. 29.

Myanmar’s President’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay said: “A large proportion of the money is in US dollars. He has spent a lot of money on his party. The Central Bank [of Myanmar] is scrutinizing his sources of income to see if his official businesses earn that much or if he is laundering money.”

U Kyaw Myint was arrested for money laundering in the 1990s and was not granted a pardon or removed from a blacklist under previous governments, said U Zaw Htay.

He currently runs Myanmar Kyaw Financial Co Ltd, Myanmar Kyaw High Tech Co Ltd and Myanmar Kyaw Trading Co Ltd.

After U Kyaw Myint’s murky past came under the spotlight, the Union Election Commission (UEC) asked the government to investigate and the UEC has been handed the initial findings, said U Zaw Htay.

The government is investigating how U Kyaw Myint obtained a citizenship registration card under a new name after he arrived back in Myanmar, how he obtained a border pass and examining his businesses, said U Zaw Htay.

“The investigation is incomplete. Action will be taken based on the evidence after the investigation is finished,” he said.

Police arrested him at his lavish Pan Hlaing housing estate home in Yangon on Sept. 29 and sent him to Obo Prison in Mandalay. The second hearing was held at Chanayethazan Township Court last week.

The government prosecutor has presented 10 witnesses, including prison officers and police who were on duty when he escaped from prison more than 20 years ago. However, as the witnesses cannot all be found, the next court hearing was scheduled for Oct. 20.

U Kyaw Myint was sentenced to nine years in prison in January 1998 for flouting business laws after his Myanmar Kyone Yeom enterprise was implicated in money laundering. After nearly a year in prison, he escaped in January 1999 after being admitted to hospital.

He then went to Canada, where he took asylum. In 2011, the Canadian authorities fined him US$1.5 million for insider trading.

He established the UDP in 2007 while in Canada and registered it with the UEC in 2010.

He moved to China from Canada in 2012. In 2014, he entered Myanmar through Muse on the Chinese border with a border pass, a type of passport that allows the holder to stay for two weeks near the border.

Before U Kyaw Myint returned to Myanmar, he sent building materials and consumer goods to Myanmar from China.

His party is due to field 1,143 candidates in the November general election, the second-largest number after the National League for Democracy. The party ran in the 2010 and 2015 general elections but failed to win any seats.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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