Tanintharyi chief minister arrested on corruption charges

By FRONTIER

YANGON — Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister Daw Lei Lei Maw, a member of the National League for Democracy, was arrested on Sunday on charges of corruption and bribery, along with three directors of Global Grand Services Company, following a month-long investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Four cases for four separate offences were filed against Lei Lei Maw and U Thein Htwe, the managing director of Global Grand Services Company, and company directors U Aung Myat and U Thura Ohn, at Dawei Myoma Police Station on March 10, the ACC said in a statement.

The chief minister was charged under section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law, for which the maximum penalty is 15 years’ imprisonment. The company directors have been charged under section 63 which carries the same penalty as section 55, for abetment.

Lei Lei Maw was arrested on Sunday and remanded in Kawthaung, before being transferred to Dawei Prison on Monday, according to local publication Dawei Watch.

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The commission opened an investigation in early February after receiving complaints about the chief minister, whose tenure has been controversial.

During a visit by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to the Tanintharyi towns of Kawthaung, Myeik and Dawei in mid-February, members of the public demonstrated to demand Lei Lei Maw’s replacement because of alleged mismanagement and nepotism in the regional government.

The investigation, which concluded on March 6, found that the regional government overpaid a company called F-22 Sunny Construction to build a central pavilion for the Thingyan festival in 2016, and to clear bushes in the compound of Dawei University and outside Dawei Airport.

Without calling a tender or holding a cabinet meeting, the regional government paid the company K400 million (US$265,000) just to clear the bushes outside Dawei Airport, the Anti-Corruption Commission said in a March 10 statement. “In contrast with local prices, this is a great loss of money for the state. It amounts to the misuse of power by a chief minister,” the statement said.

The second charge relates to Lei Lei Maw’s alleged allocation of K1.9 billion of regional government funds to the Road Management Department under the Ministry of Construction. In October 2018, she allegedly ordered a director in the regional department to build walls around two plots of land owned by her husband U Tun Min, under the name U Myint Ho, without paying the cost of K14 million. She did not pay for the work until she was under investigation, the ACC said.

Investigators also said that Lei Lei Maw sold her two-storey house in Thayetchaung Township, Dawei District, to Global Grand Services at the inflated price of K200 million, in return for awarding contracts to the company for several construction projects across the state, including a fish market, low-cost apartment buildings, and a guest house. The house’s true value is around K32 million, the investigators said.

The regional government allegedly awarded a contract for electricity generation and distribution in Dawei District to Global Grand Services in 2016. The terms of the agreement were violated, the ACC said, because of a lack of due supervision, and the company failed to pay over K8 billion for the cost of natural gas.

“This resulted in the loss of state money owed to the Ministry of Electricity and Energy,” the commission said. “So the regional chief minister, and [company directors] U Thein Htwe and U Aung Myat are found to be responsible for corruption”.

Lei Lei Maw is the first chief minister to be charged with corruption since the NLD took power in 2016. She is the second high-ranking government official to be charged under section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law during the current government’s term.

In September last year, Yangon Region advocate general U Han Htoo was arrested under bribery charges over a decision to drop a murder case against three suspects accused of the fatal beating of Facebook celebrity Ko Aung Yell Htwe.

In April last year, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, U Than Htut, became the first high-ranking official to face corruption charges after the Anti-Corruption Commission was re-formed in November 2017, with former minister U Aung Kyi as its chair.

Than Htut was charged under section 56 of the Anti-Corruption Law after he allegedly accepted more than K150 million from a company that won a tender from his department.

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