YANGON – The President’s Office has ordered the Ministry of Planning and Finance to study the results of an investigation by the Central Body on Anti-Money Laundering into a business dispute over the Amara Ocean Resort (AOR) in southern Rakhine State’s Thandwe Township.
The anti-money laundering agency, which is administered by the Ministry of Home Affairs, wrapped up the investigation on March 5. The President’s Office wants the ministry to determine whether there are grounds for legal proceedings regarding the Ngapali Beach resort.
The instruction was contained in a reply letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the German Embassy in Yangon dated May 3. According to the letter, former German Ambassador Christian-Ludwig Weber-Lortsch and Gerald Schreiber — the ex-husband of AOR owner Daw Kalayar Moe — requested an appointment with U Min Thu, deputy minister of the Myanmar President’s Office, to discuss the disputed beach property.
The meeting request was declined by the deputy minister. That decision was accompanied by a brief explanation citing the fact that the case is under “scrutinization”. The letter stated that the Ministry of Planning and Finance and the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism would take “proper action,” but did not say against whom.
In an email to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, Schreiber said, “What a surprise! we did never get anything before. The Government has never send any official statement to us before. We have been meeting with government people since 2012 regard our case, but never got anything in written.”
In 2011, Schreiber and his then-wife Daw Kalayar Moe (they have since divorced) entered an agreement with Dr. Jens Ehrahrdt, chairman of the Germany-based DJE Group, to develop a 17-acre plot of land on Ngapali Beach and a 6-acre freshwater reservoir in Gaw village, a few miles from Thandwe Airport. Ehrahrdt funded the project with an investment of several million dollars. He held a 50-percent stake, with the couple possessing 25 percent each. Under the agreement, profits from the venture were to be shared accordingly.
According to documents obtained by The Irrawaddy, Myanmar citizen Daw Kalayar Moe agreed to act as the landowner because foreigners are legally prohibited from owning property. After the couple obtained a divorce in Germany in 2012, the woman refused to sell her stake in the Myanmar asset, which is registered under the name of Kalayar, to DJE Group.
During then-president U Thein Sein’s visit to Germany in 2013, Schreiber and Ehrahrdt met with several Union ministers including U Soe Thein and Wana Maung Lwin about the disputed AOR property in Ngapali and provided documents signed by the parties. The meeting was also attended by Weber-Lortsch, who was still the ambassador to Myanmar at that time. U Thein Sein promised to help the German investors.
In the email, Schreiber wrote: “We can put all the documents to Myanmar government as a proof. We have already provided documents to the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government and current home affairs minister Lt. Gen Kyaw Swe ordered Bureaus of Special Investigation (BSI) to investigate the case and found out wrongdoings of Kalayar Moe. But in a meeting in January with former German ambassador, home affairs minister claimed that the case was blocked by Myanmar President Office.”
President Office’s spokesman U Zaw Htay confirmed that the case was under investigation by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Tourism Ministry but declined to answer specific questions on Thursday.
“We are not sure who is behind in this case but we know exactly that Kalayar has close connection with U Win Htein. He has been (AOR hotel) there for a few days last year,” Schreiber writes in the email. U Win Htein is a senior figure in the ruling National League for Democracy.
Neither U Win Htein nor Daw Kalayar Moe could be reached for comment on Thursday.
In September 2017, Schreiber wrote to DG U Aung Naing Oo of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and provided relevant documents. However, Schreiber was urged to try to convince Daw Kalayar Moe to reach an amicable solution. Schreiber replied to U Aung Naing Oo that he and his business partner, Ehrahrdt, would prefer to resolve the situation by selling the resort at a reasonable price to a new investor, or getting a permit from the Myanmar Investment Commission to operate the beach resort. However, neither of these outcomes could be achieved unless Daw Kalayar Moe released the land ownership, Schreiber added.
In May 2017, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism revoked the resort’s business license. After a visit by U Win Htein in 2017, however, she was granted a temporary license for one season in 2018. Daw Kalayar Moe verbally acknowledged U Win Htein’s visit during an interview with The Irrawaddy at her house in Yangon in April, but denied sponsoring the trip. The temporary hotel license for Amara Ocean Resort expired on April 30.
Daw Kalayar Moe has faced a divorce suit in Yangon Court since 2014. Her ex-business partner the DJE group has filed an initial complaint at the Myo Ma Mingalardon police station with the aim of suing her under the criminal code.