The Irrawaddy

Three Suspects in Record Malaysian Meth Bust Appear in District Court

The entrance of Western District Court in Yangon’s Lamadaw Township.

YANGON – Three suspects linked to a record drug bust in Malaysia — U Min Naing, Haj Yassin and his brother-in-law Zeyar Hein — were prosecuted at a court hearing on Friday under sections 20 (b) and 22 (a) of the Anti-Narcotics Law. They face minimum jail terms of 15 years and possible lifetime imprisonment or the death penalty if found guilty.

On May 28, Malaysian authorities announced their largest-ever drug seizure, finding nearly 1.2 tons of methamphetamine and a quantity of heroin in a shipping container. The drugs, disguised as golden tea packages, were shipped from Myanmar in a container that was declared to Customs officials as containing traditional foodstuffs. The haul had an estimated street value of USD18 million. Three Myanmar nationals and several Malaysians suspected of involvement in drug trafficking were arrested. Malaysia announced that the container carried the Log No. FSCU 9911521 and that the shipment came from Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon.

Two days later, Myanmar police arrested prominent Customs clearance agent U Min Naing, owner of the Nice Guy Clearance Service Agency in Yangon. Police did not identify the owner of Nice Guy Agency, but The Irrawaddy learned on June 8 that it is owned by U Min Naing and that its affiliate businesses U Kaung Trading and the Nice Guy purified drinking water factory are owned by U Min Naing’s family. Based on the container log number, The Irrawaddy has previously reported that this container was leased to Sinokor, based in Malaysia’s Penang port, and that the vessel left Myanmar Industrial Port (MIP) during the Water Festival period.

U Kaung Trading managing director U Aung Soe Moe signed a shipping instruction book for Haj Yassin. As of today, police had yet to say whether U Aung Soe Moe had any further connection to the case. By chance, The Irrawaddy saw a man widely believed to be Aung Soe Moe at the Western District Court. He denied that he was Aung Soe Moe, but pictures seen by The Irrawaddy match his appearance.

The police were able to locate Haj Yassin based on information received from initial suspect U Min Naing. The first statement on the case issued by police merely said they had arrested the suspect on June 2 and that the key suspect, Haj Yassin, was at that time on the run, having left his luxury Toyota Lexus under the Tarmwe flyover on May 30. The police statement contradicted the testimony of suspect U Min Naing, who claimed to a judge at Friday’s hearing that he has been detained since May 30.

According to the Home Affairs Ministry’s latest statement, police arrested Haj Yassin (aka Maung Maung) on the Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin highway on June 6 and detained a third suspect, Zeyar Hein, on June 9 as he returned to Yangon from Malaysia to extend his passport. Fourth suspect Dawei Gyi, aka U Aung Lwin, was arrested at the Ma Hlwa Taung border checkpoint in Tinintharyi Division, and 10 grams of crystal methamphetamine, or “ice”, was seized at his house in Dawei Township on June 20.

The three suspects were initially remanded for detention at Seik Kan Myo Ma Court and officially handed over to stand trial to the Western District Court on Friday. The police also handed over Haj Yassin’s luxury car and a Bongo Box car allegedly used for drug transportation as evidence to the court 0n the same day. From around 10 a.m., relatives of U Min Naing and the wife of Haj Yassin, as well as Zeyar Hein’s younger brother and his wife, were seen waiting in the lobby. They declined to answer questions on the case when asked by The Irrawaddy.

At Friday’s hearing, District Court Associate Judge No. 1 Daw Moe Moe Aye confirmed the suspects’ detention dates, addresses, ages, and national registration card numbers, along with the articles under which they were being prosecuted. The judge set July 13 as the next trial date. Suspects U Min Naing and Haj Yassin were represented by defense lawyer U Than Aung, who was assisted by about five representatives, while Zeyar Hein requested the judge assign him a separate defense lawyer. The judge officially announced warrants for two suspects, Jia Wei (aka Qin Jiamu) and Hussein (aka Mohammed Hussein). It was unclear whether suspect U Aung Lwin would appear in Tanintharyi Division Court or be brought to Yangon.

After the hearing, Zeyar Hein’s mother said quickly to her son, as he was being led from the courtroom, “Don’t worry my son. I’m right here for you and we will do our best for you.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs announced last week that it had confiscated at least 18 billion kyats worth of movable and immovable assets from the six suspects. The assets are believed to be the proceeds of drug deals. Cash, bank account documents and valuables including jewelry were seized. Third suspect Ahko Gyi (aka Ka Tone), the husband of Jia Wei, is still at large and believed to be living in Malaysia, according to the police statement.