Lawyer Says Suspect’s Wealth Could Prove Key in Ko Ni Murder Trial

By Tin Htet Paing 22 December 2017

YANGON — An attorney representing the family of slain lawyer U Ko Ni suggested on Friday that the wealth of one of the murder suspects could prove a vital clue in finding the source of the money that financed the assassination.

It has been nearly a year since the prominent Muslim lawyer and NLD legal adviser was shot dead by gunman Kyi Lin outside Yangon International Airport on the afternoon of Jan. 29. Police have detained four suspects — Kyi Lin and alleged co-conspirators Zeya Phyo, Aung Win Zaw and Aung Win Tun. They have been on trial for approximately nine months.

Police allege that suspect and former Lieutenant Colonel Aung Win Khaing, who is still at large, was the mastermind of the assassination. They told the Yangon court in June that they had no new leads on his whereabouts.

During Friday’s hearing at the Yangon North District Court, businessman Tin Tun Aung testified about his relationship with the suspect Zeya Phyo. He said the two have known each other since before he formed his company in 2005.

According to the website of Tin Tun Aung’s Shogun Co., Ltd., the company is partnered with the Zeya Phyo Group, owned by Zeya Phyo. He told the court that he had borrowed 120 million kyats ($88,000) from Zeya Phyo and returned it in 2016. He also testified that Zeya Phyo used to help his friends whenever they were in financial difficulty.

Citing the financial relationship between the two, one of the lawyers representing U Ko Ni’s family, U Nay La, said the testimony suggested that Zeya Phyo was wealthy, a possibly vital clue in finding out how U Ko Ni’s assassination was paid for.

“This trial is all about investigating why Kyi Lin was hired, why there was money involved, and what source all that money came from,” U Nay La said.

Also at Friday’s hearing an IT expert with the national police force’s Criminal Investigation Department testified about text messages that had been sent between the suspects. The court has now finished examining 69 of the 80 scheduled witnesses.

Three of the suspects in custody are charged with murder under Article 302 of the Penal Code. Aung Win Tun is charged with harboring a criminal under Article 212.

Zeya Phyo, a former military intelligence officer, is also charged under Article 67 of the Telecommunications Law with possession of restricted telecommunications equipment and under Article 468 of the Penal Code for forgery of national identity cards.

In addition, two of the suspects, Kyi Lin and Aung Win Zaw, are charged under Article 19 (d) and (f) of the Arms Act for possession and transportation of illegal arms.