Burma

Junta Accuses Ousted Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Myanmar of Corruption

By The Irrawaddy 11 May 2022

The junta has lodged corruption charges against the ousted and detained deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, Dr. Bo Bo Nge, accusing him of failing to tax donations to Myanmar from the billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation (OSF), among other charges.

On Tuesday, the junta-backed Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed charges under Article 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law against Dr. Bo Bo Nge at Oketarathiri Township police station in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.

He has been held captive by the military regime for over 15 months, during which time he has been out of contact with his family.

The ACC claimed that Dr. Bo Bo Nge was found lacking in monitoring the foreign exchange management, monitoring and inspection of the banking sector and accounting departments in his role as deputy governor of the Central Bank, and that some of his decisions caused the state loss of revenue. 

Dr. Bo Bo Nge is accused of causing the loss of 102 million kyats in tax revenue from stamp duty, a 360 million kyats loss for not collecting tax from OSF-Myanmar’s deposit of US$5 million (7.04 million kyats), and the loss of 655 million kyats (US$ 0.39 million) in tax from his decision not to deposit a US$350 million loan from the United States in a higher-interest earning account than the one he used at the Singapore branch of the SMBC Bank.

U Min Ye Paing Hein, ousted and detained deputy industry minister, attends the Invest Myanmar Summit in January 2019. / Invest Myanmar Summit 2019

The regime seized control of billionaire George Soros’ OSF in Myanmar in March last year, claiming that the world’s largest private funder for justice, democratic governance and human rights had failed to obtain approval from the Central Bank of Myanmar’s Foreign Exchange Management Department for a deposit of US$5 million to Myanmar’s Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank in 2018.

Dr. Bo Bo Nge was arrested at his home in Naypyitaw in the early morning of February 1 last year, the day the junta launched its coup and arrested hundreds of people, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, union ministers, chief ministers and some deputy ministers.

His family and friends have heard nothing from him since then.

Other technocrats in the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government such as U Min Ye Paing Hein and U Sett Aung, two deputy ministers for planning, finance and industry, were detained a few days after the coup.

U Min Ye Paing Hein has also been out of contact with his family and his whereabouts are still unknown, according to an NLD source. U Sett Aung has been charged under the Official Secrets Act and is on trial along with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, ousted planning and finance ministers U Soe Win and U Kyaw Win and Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to the former NLD government.

An NLD official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the arbitrary detention of very capable technocrats and ministers like Dr. Bo Bo Nge and U Min Ye Paing Hein is “a huge loss for the country.”

“They have detained him for more than a year and when they can’t find any fault or corruption against him [Dr. Bo Bo Nge], they contrive corruption charges against him,” said the NLD official.

U Sett Aung, ousted and detained deputy planning and finance minister. / The Irrawaddy

A former student activist during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, Dr. Bo Bo Nge was jailed for several years in the 1990s for his activism against the then military dictatorship. While in jail, Dr. Bo Bo Nge learned English from a dictionary smuggled into his prison.

After his release, he fled to the United States. He won a scholarship to Bard College and then studied for a master’s degree in economics at John Hopkins University. Subsequently, he specialized in financial reform and gained a doctorate from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to colleagues, Dr. Bo Bo Nge is regarded as a rare, righteous technocrat who was in exactly the right position in the NLD government. 

A colleague who wished to remain anonymous told The Irrawaddy: “Knowing Ko Bo Bo [referring to Dr. Bo Bo Nge] as someone who is simple, humble and lives modestly without pretension or ostentation, I can’t imagine him associated with any corruption. These allegations are all utter nonsense.”

The Washington Post described Dr. Bo Bo Nge’s life as an American immigrant success story, noting that he rose from washing dishes to become an economist earning a six-figure salary.

But he chose to return to his homeland after the NLD government took power in 2016 to take part in Myanmar’s democratic transition.

In 2017, Dr. Bo Bo Nge was appointed deputy governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, where he took a leading role in facilitating the financial and economic reforms introduced by the NLD government. He was also a member of the NLD’s economic committee.

Following the junta’s coup, the regime appointed new governors to the Central Bank of Myanmar. Dr. Bo Bo Nge was replaced by Daw Than Than Swe, who was shot in Yangon by anti-regime resistance fighters early last month.

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