Myanmar May Be Placed on EU Money-Laundering Blacklist


2020.05.06
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myanmar-group-050620.JPG Myanmar government officials are shown at the launch of a National Strategy on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism in Naypyidaw in 2019.
RFA

The European Union is set to add Myanmar on Thursday to a blacklist of 22 countries failing to enforce curbs against money laundering and other financial crimes, a Reuters news report said on May 6, citing drafts of EU documents seen ahead of the list’s expected release.

If enacted, the expected designation will follow a move by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force in February to place Myanmar on its “gray list” of countries warned to make better efforts to strengthen their anti-money laundering regimes.

Countries on the list expected to be released on Thursday “pose significant threats to the financial system of the [European Union]” because of business ties to European banks and financial firms, which will now be required to look more closely at clients who have dealings with listed countries, Reuters said.

Requirements for greater scrutiny will go into force only in October, though, “due to disruptions caused by the current coronavirus epidemic,” Reuters said, citing EU documents seen by the news service ahead of the blacklist’s anticipated publication.

“Although [Myanmar’s] government has been trying to fight against money laundering, this is still a problem in the country, and drug trafficking may be one of the main reasons,” Tint Lwin, a Myanmar lawmaker and chair of the Yangon Public Accounts Committee, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“Throughout our history, a series of governments, including the present government led by the National League for Democracy, have tried to fight corruption but have failed,” he said. “I think that this is the reason that Myanmar has been put on the watch list.”

Money laundering and other financial crime have historically also supported acts by terror groups, noted Myanmar economist Zaw Oo, adding, “We can’t carefully and systematically watch everywhere this money goes, and what it supports.”

There is still no “easy way” to control the money-laundering business in Myanmar, said Aung Thu Nyein, a political analyst for the country’s nongovernmental Institute for Strategy and Policy. “We have groups that watch this, like the Central Bank, but I think we will now have to respond [to this problem] with a careful plan.”

“But if Myanmar is put on a blacklist, our country will suffer losses in the international finance sector and in international money flows,” he said.

Reached on Wednesday by RFA, Khin San Hlaing—an NLD parliamentarian and chairwoman of the parliament’s Financial Committee—declined to comment. Requests for comment from Presidential Office spokesman Zaw Htay also received no response.

Reported by Thiha Tun and Thet Su Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Maung Maung Nyo. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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