Myanmar Court Issues Arrest Warrant for US Citizen in Alleged Marijuana Farming Case
By Zarni Mann 24 February 2020
MANDALAY—The Myingyan District Court in Mandalay Region has issued an arrest warrant for a US citizen who went missing amid charges over his alleged operation of a marijuana plantation.
John Fredric Todoroki, 63, was arrested in April 2019 for allegedly growing marijuana along with two Myanmar nationals working for III M Global Nutraceutical Company at the Myotha Industrial Park in Myingyan. The sale and use of marijuana is illegal in Myanmar.
Todoroki was granted bail in July as he was suffering from respiratory problems. The bail was set at 300 million kyats (US$203,000).
After Todoroki was granted bail, his lawyers requested in November that the Mandalay Regional Court review the case and drop the charges as III M Global had official approval from the Mandalay regional government to grow industrial hemp and the seeds had been imported legally.
The Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), however, said it seized more than 300,000 marijuana plants, 380 kg of marijuana seeds, formic acid, acetone, acetonitrile solution, methanol and 271 kg of dried cannabis. Hemp and marijuana are two distinct varieties of the cannabis plant.
The regional court returned the case to the Myingyan court in December for hearings to continue but since then, Todoroki has failed to attend court.
On Monday, the Myingyan District Court ordered the Myotha police to arrest Todoroki and issued a warrant for his arrest for failing to appear at the court.
If arrested, Todoroki would face 5-15 years in prison.
As Todoroki has failed to attend court, the bail must be paid by his friend, U Khin Maung Win, who signed the assurance for the bail at the court. U Khin Maung Win submitted an appeal for consideration at the court on Monday and the court will make a decision on the appeal at the next hearing for the case in early March.
One of the defendant’s lawyers, U Thein Than Oo, told The Irrawaddy that they had lost contact with their client since November and did not know where he was. They said they had contacted the US Embassy in their attempts to locate Todoroki.
Asked about the case, his lawyer said the case could sound strange to observers.
“The industrial hemp plantation received green lights, approved and signed by the Mandalay Regional Government, and is operating openly at the industrial zone,” he said. “However, the police later assumed it was a marijuana plantation and the plantation operators were sued.”
“It sounds awkward. Authorities concerned should take it seriously,” he added.
The US Embassy in Yangon did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
The Irrawaddy reporter D Hlaing Win contributed to this story.
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