Junta Crony

Myanmar Junta Crony Pleads Not Guilty to Drug, Financial Crimes in Thailand

By The Irrawaddy 25 January 2023

An arms dealer and Myanmar junta crony with close links to the country’s military regime leader on Monday pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges in Thailand.

Myanmar citizen Tun Min Latt and three other people, in addition to legal entity Allure Group (P&E), were charged in December with money laundering, drug trafficking and transnational organized crime after their arrests in Bangkok in September.

During Monday’s trial hearing at the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court in Bangkok, Tun Min Latt and co-defendant Dean Young Guntula, the son-in-law of Thai senator Upakit Pachariyangkun, appeared in court shackled by the ankles, while the other two sat with them without shackles.

Tun Min Latt is accused of transferring funds derived from drug sales to Allure Group (P&E), an electricity company. According to the indictment, the company was used to “transform money gained from offences related to drugs into commodities in the form of electricity that was exported to [Shan State’s Tachileik in] Myanmar” from Thailand.

Dean allegedly oversaw the transfer of funds to Allure Group (P&E) from a related firm, Myanmar Allure Group Co. Ltd. According to Thailand’s company registry, Tun Min Latt is the sole shareholder in Myanmar Allure Group (P&E), which is registered in Mae Sai, a Thai town across the border from Tachileik. The other two defendants, Namhom Nettrakun and Piyada Khamta, are also accused of involvement in transferring drug money to Allure Group (P&E).

The four pleaded not guilty on Monday via their attorneys, and provided reasons for their pleas, according to Thai news website Prachatai.

The lawyers stated that their clients had nothing to do with the drug trade, insisting that Allure Group P&E was involved only in importing electricity from Thailand to Tachiliek.

They said an unofficial moneychanger that the company used to conduct cross-border transactions was involved with money from drug trafficking.

Dean’s lawyer claimed his client had no involvement in the matter, that among his seized assets nothing illegal was found, and that he had never even traveled to Myanmar.

Tun Min Latt and the other defendants have been in custody in Thailand since their arrest in September 2022. Over 200 million baht (US$5.4 million) worth of drugs and other items were confiscated from them, Thai police said.

Two weeks later, an arrest warrant was also issued for Guntula’s father-in-law, Upakit, on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, but the warrant was quickly withdrawn, OCCRP and Prachatai reported.

Tun Min Latt runs the Star Sapphire Group of companies, which brokered imports of Israeli reconnaissance drones and aircraft parts for the Myanmar Air Force, according to sources.

Star Sapphire Group is partnered with two military-owned business conglomerates — Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) — in numerous ventures, sources said.

His ties to Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s family were revealed when police found bankbooks and the title document of a luxury condominium owned by the adult children of Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing among items seized during the raid in September.

The items included the title document of a four-bedroom condo worth nearly $1 million in the Belle Rama 9 complex in Bangkok belonging to Min Aung Hlaing’s son Aung Pyae Sone, and two Siam Commercial Bank passbooks belonging to Khin Thiri Thet Mon, Min Aung Hlaing’s daughter.