90 Pct. of Money Laundering Cases Tied to Drugs

By Htet Naing Zaw 28 June 2019

NAYPYIDAW—According to U Maung Maung Kyaw, director general of the Ministry of Home Affairs’ Bureau of Special Investigations, 90 percent of the money laundering cases his bureau investigates are tied to drugs.

The bureau leads international money laundering investigations in partnership with the Central Bank of Myanmar, the Income and Revenue Department, the Department of Agricultural Land Management and Statistics, the Customs Department, the Financial Investigation Police Force, the Anti-Narcotic Task Force and the Anti-Human Trafficking Police Force, and they partner on information sharing with their counterparts in Thailand.

In one recent case, U Maung Maung, aka Haj Yassin, was found to be exporting drugs to Malaysia and using the names of relatives to register bank accounts for the payments.

Yassin, a 44-year-old resident of Yangon, was arrested in 2018 for exporting drugs; after the arrest, police said they found over US$2 million (3.03 billion kyats) in bank accounts opened in the names of his relatives. Police also seized gold and jewelry from his home.

“When investigating the case we investigated his relatives. While trafficking drugs to Malaysia, the culprit bought homes and land and opened the bank accounts with the names of his family members,” said U Maung Maung Kyaw.

U Maung Maung Kyaw told The Irrawaddy in Naypyidaw on Thursday that it’s common for criminals to launder drug money by buying homes, land, apartments and vehicles, and by investing and opening banks accounts in their own names or the names of relatives and trusted associates.

In May 2018, Malaysian police said 1.2 tons of drug worth about $18 million were seized from a shipping container out of Yangon in a case that led to the arrest of three Myanmar citizens and three Malaysian citizens in Kuala Lumpur.

“The court will make the decision as to which assets are declared as public funds and which are not, and the culprits will be punished under the Anti-Money Laundering Law,” U Maung Maung Kyaw said.

The Anti-Money Laundering Law requires that banks and financial institutions inform the Financial Investigation Police Force about suspicious money deposits and transfers.

Money laundering charges carry a minimum three-year prison sentence or 300 million kyat fine.

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