Dozens Interviewed in Tanintharyi Graft Case, Commission Says

By Zue Zue 13 March 2019

YANGON — The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) says it interviewed more than 90 witnesses before filing corruption charges recently against Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister Daw Lei Lei Maw and three directors of the Global Grand Services (GGS) company.

The four were arrested in the regional capital, Dawei, on Sunday. The Office of the President, which appoints chief ministers, announced Daw Lei Lei Maw’s dismissal the next day.

“We had to interview more than 90 witnesses, including businessmen. An important witness only arrived back in Myanmar from a trip abroad on Mar. 3, so we could only interview him the following day. We had to conduct detailed interviews,” ACC spokesman U Kyaw Soe told The Irrawaddy.

The commission says it found that Daw Lei Lei Maw had abused her position on a number of occasions since April 2016 — just weeks after she was appointed chief minister — in an announcement released late Sunday evening together with its findings.

Those findings include details of the chief minister’s alleged corruption in awarding contracts for the construction of a pavilion for a Myanmar New Year event in 2016 and for the removal of unwanted bushes from Dawei University and outside Dawei Airport in November 2016. It says, for example, that Daw Lei Lei Maw approved 400 million kyats ($263,000) for the removal of the bushes outside the airport.

She allegedly asked a director with the regional Road Management Department in October 2018 to build a wall around two plots of land in Dawei owned by her husband but did not pay until the ACC started investigating her.

The commission said she sold her house, which was valued at 32 million kyats ($21,000), for 200 million kyats ($131,000) to GGS. The company was subsequently awarded a number of contracts, including for electricity distribution in Dawei and the construction of a fish market, a city hall and low-cost housing.

The commission said it also found that GGS broke a contract made with the regional government and owes 8 billion kyats ($5.2 million) to the Ministry of Electricity and Energy for natural gas.

The ACC said it conducted a month-long investigation from Feb. 4 to Mar. 6 in Naypyitaw, Yangon and Dawei in response to complaints filed by regional lawmakers and local residents with both the commission and the President’s Office.

In addition to ACC staff, the investigating team included the director of the Union Auditor-General’s Office, the deputy director-general of the Construction Ministry and other experts.

“In response to the complaints, we found that four cases broke the Anti-Corruption Law, and we have therefore taken steps to prosecute the chief minister and three company officials,” U Kyaw Soe said.

Asked if the ACC will file more charges in connection with the complaints, he said the cases under investigation must be kept secret according to Article 20 (d) of the Anti-Corruption Law.

The case against Daw Lei Lei Maw was filed under the Anti-Corruption Law’s Article 55, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

The cases against GGS directors U Thein Htwe, U Aung Myat and U Thura Ohn were filed under Article 63. It says that whoever instigates, abets, attempts, conspires or manages to commit any offense contained in the Anti-Corruption Law will be punished with the prescribed penalty for the offense.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.