Who is Dawei Gyi, aka U Aung Lwin, a key suspect in the Malaysia drug haul?

By Moe Myint 22 June 2018

YANGON – Despite Myanmar police announcing on June 19 that they had arrested four suspects and were hunting three others following the seizure in Malaysia of 1.2 tons of methamphetamine and a quantity of heroin that had been shipped from Yangon port last month, authorities have still not released many details about the backgrounds of each of the suspects.

According to a police statement, authorities have apprehended four suspects: U Min Naing, the owner of Nice Guy Clearance Service Agency, Haj Yassin and his brother-in-law Zeyar Hein, and most recently U Aung Lwin, also known as Dawei Gyi, in Tanitharyi Division on June 12. Meanwhile, the other three suspects, Jia Wai, aka Hnin Oo Lwin, from Tachileik in Shan State and her husband, Ahko Gyi, aka Ka Tone, and Hussein, aka Muhammad Hussein, continue to evade police capture. The police also disclosed they had seized moveable property and assets worth over 18 billion from six of the suspects and urged the public to inform them on the whereabouts of Jia Wai and Hussein. The last of the at-large suspects, Ahko Gyi, is believed to be in Malaysia.

The four detained suspects were arrested in different locations around the country. The Irrawaddy has previously revealed that both Nice Guy Clearance Service Agency and an affiliate, U Kaung Trading, were owned by U Min Naing’s family and that the company had acted as the shipper of the drug cargo, which was disguised in golden tea packages, for Haj Yassin. It also determined the two had been friends on Facebook for years. The initial police statement did not identify U Min Naing or U Kaung Trading’s managing director, U Aung Soe Moe, as suspects. A second announcement from the Home Affairs Ministry officially identified U Aung Lwin and Jia Wai as suspects but provided few other details.

The Irrawaddy understands that U Aung Lwin is better known as U Pyin Poe in Dawei Township and that he had almost completed a six-storey building in the town located in front of the Mediland Hospital. The project is believed to be a hotel business and U Aung Lwin had mentioned several times that a “new hotel was coming soon” on his Facebook account. He also owns a resort on Maungmakan Beach, a popular tourist destination, and land in Myitta, a sub-township in Dawei.

Reliable sources, including those close to relatives of U Aung Lwin, or U Pyin Poe (which means “ant” in the Dawei language), told The Irrawaddy under condition of anonymity that he was a notorious drug lord in the region. U Aung Lwin was said to travel frequently, to Yangon, Thailand, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Sources from Dawei and the Facebook user history of “U Pyin Poe” indicate that he is close to Haj Yassin and the two had commented on each other’s Facebook pages for years.

The arrest of U Aung Lwin shocked and puzzled Dawei residents, as several matters were not explained in the Home Affairs statement. According to Dawei sources, U Aung Lwin had returned to Dawei, which is close to the border with Thailand, after his bank account in the neighboring country were frozen. He was travelling with a locally well-known monk from the Zeyyawadi monastery and a couple of Dawei businessmen. U Aung Lwin was arrested at the Ma Hlwa Taung border checkpoint, which is situated between Mon State and Tanintharyi Division. Sources from Dawei said that the two businessmen were also taken in by police for questioning.

In an attempt to get confirmation of these reports from authorities, The Irrawaddy called police Col Nay Myo, who is the head of Tanintharyi division police, but no one answered the phone.

U Aung Lwin is listed as a shareholder and also one of the founders of Tanintharyi Public Company Ltd, which operates hotel and other development projects. Although U Aung Lwin is obviously a wealthy individual in Dawei, his riches are not considered to have been reputably earned within the community and he is widely regarded as a medium-level drug lord. The Irrawaddy found that U Aung Lwin also operates a home security business that provides surveillance cameras, smoke detectors and automatic gate systems. His company is located on Waizayandar Street of South Okkalapa Township with a factory in the South Okkalapa Industrial Zone.

The company is officially registered with the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) as a “trading company” with a license that is due to expire in 2020. DICA’s records show that he serves as the managing director and that his wife, Yee Yee Mon, and his sisters Aye Aye Lwin and Than Than Lwin serve as company directors. The Irrawaddy visited U Aung Lwin’s office this morning but none of the directors named above were present and only two women employees were in the office. The Irrawaddy has seen a business license with U Aung Lwin’s photo that was recently approved by the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) for 2018.

Police announced that they have confiscated a total of 2.7 billion kyat of moveable and immobile assets from U Aung Lwin. It’s unclear whether this includes assets held by his home security services business.

The two employees confirmed that police came to the office a few days ago to question company officials.

The company’s showroom displays security cameras, door sensors and interior decorations. According to staff, the products were all imported from Malaysia via international shipping containers and the company has been operating for at least 6 years. It’s unclear whether the company has any links to Haj Yassin or U Kaung Trading in narcotics smuggling to Malaysia.

The Irrawaddy has learned the three men — Haj Yassin, Aung Lwin and U Min Naing — were friends on Facebook and had known each other for years. Some of them own at least two to three accounts with nicknames.

The Home Affairs statement also did not elaborate on the connection between U Aung Lwin and Haj Yassin, and it’s unclear whether both of them had possibly been collaborating on illicit drugs dealing for a long time. According to police, Haj Yassin and Zeyar Hein both acknowledged they were friends with U Aung Lwin in Malaysia and had contacted Jia Wai, the wife of Ahko Gyi, about the drug shipment. It did not specify where they had allegedly packed the drugs or the origins of the drugs.

The Irrawaddy has viewed a police report that states a combined team of military officers and anti-narcotics police from Tachileik raided the house of Qin Jaimu (aka Jia Wai), that also served as a jewelry shop known as 3+1 U Kyaw Kyaw on June 13. The four-storey building is situated in Bogyoke Street, in the Mae Khaung quarter of Tachileik. Jia Wai fled before the police arrived at the building, leaving behind her four daughters and a son as well as four workers. The police seized four private cars, a Prado, Landcruiser, Toyota Alphard and Fortuner, 68.514 pounds of gold, 71.5 million Thai baht, over 110 million Burmese kyat, USD20,000 and CNY20,000. According to the Home Affairs statement, authorities said they had confiscated a total over 8 billion kyats in cash and valuables from Jia Wai.