Special Investigation Bureau Probes Theft of 2.8 Billion Kyats

By Htet Naing Zaw 23 January 2017

NAYPYIDAW — Burma’s Bureau of Special Investigation is probing the alleged embezzlement of around 2.8 billion kyats (US$2.1 million) from Magwe Division regional development funds by authorities who served in the previous divisional government, according to the current division chief minister.

The bureau is responding to an allegation that high-ranking officials misappropriated funds that were paid by crude oil producers into a regional foundation, and which were to be spent on Magwe Division development programs. The 2.8 billion kyats (US$2.1 million) allegedly disappeared while former chief minister U Phone Maw Shwe was in power.

“The Magwe division branch of the Bureau of Special Investigation is questioning the concerned departments,” said Magwe Division Chief Minister U Aung Moe Nyo.

The Bureau of Special Investigation has already questioned officials from the internal revenue department, from the government-operated Myanmar Economic Bank, and from the office of the divisional chief auditor, according to Dr. Aung Moe Nyo.

“I don’t know if the former chief minister [U Phone Maw Shwe], or ministers, or directors, or deputy directors were questioned or not,” said Dr. Aung Moe Nyo. “But I know that there was an investigation, and the investigation report has already been submitted to the Union government.”

Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) official U Hsan Nyunt Aung, who serves as party secretary in Magwe Division, denied the allegation that USDP—the ex-ruling party—was involved in an embezzlement scheme.

Lower House lawmaker U Tun Tun of Pwintbyu Township said the investigation was seeking to answer a question that he raised in Parliament in May 2016. He asked “if 2.8 billion kyats that were collected for Magwe Division development funds were really used for that purpose.” Energy Minister U Pe Zin Htun promised to look into it.

“The money was not transferred to another account, nor used for regional development,” U Tun Tun told The Irrawaddy. “With that amount of money, we could build many schools, clinics, roads, and bridges.”

“The minister promised to investigate, and he did,” said U Tun Tun. “I learned that the Bureau of Special Investigation started probing the case two months ago.”

The Magwe government collected 385 million kyats (US$287,000) in taxes from oil producers in the first six months of the new government’s term, said U Aung Moe Nyo, the current division chief minister. The money will be distributed to 25 townships in the division.

“I heard that we will soon receive 3 million kyats (US$2,200) for each township to spend on development,” said U Tun Tun.

The previous divisional government imposed a regional development tax of 5,000 kyats (US$4) per barrel of crude oil from individual oil producers.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko