The Central Bank said the institution has ‘no official record’ or knowledge of the US$11b in five foreign banks accounts as reported by the media and declined to say if the allegation would be investigate.
“We have no official records about the 11 billion dollars. We don’t know who has the accounts and how much they are. Our official record is that we have US$7.6 billion and say it with transparency. The Central Bank, the state bank or private banks have nothing to do with that 11 billion. We have now submitted official results,” said Kyaw Kyaw Maung, the governor of the Central Bank, during a briefing in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday.
Local Myanmar media reported that US$11 billion of the country’s money are being kept in five foreign banks. The information was reportedly revealed by the Asia Program manager of Bank of Information Center (BIC), Mr. Jelson Garcia, on September 10.
Asked if the government had any plan to look into the issue of Myanmar nationals holding accounts in foreign banks: Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said:
“As I have said on my Facebook page, 195 countries across the world have banks. With tens of thousands of banks, we need to have strong evidence. In Greece, there was a problem of having deposited money in foreign bank accounts. As the media talked about accounts in foreign banks, the Greece government had to request the respective banks. There are procedures to do so. But now, we cannot know which country or which country has such amount (US$11 billion). There is no reason that we cannot clarify if we have correct information and sources.”
When asked to respond to suggestions that the government has been dismissive of the reports about the US$11 billion in foreign banks, Ye Htut said: “Even the United States cannot address such issue immediately. With the resources we have, we cannot talk about this clearly. That’s why we are asking for more correct information. I have sent an email to Garcia. Give me evidence if you have any,” he added.
On September 13, The Irrawaddy website posted the news titled “Behind the US$11 billion”. According to the news, in 2009, the US-based non-profit organization Earth Rights International (ERI) reported that Myanmar had unknown foreign banks accounts worth of billions of US dollars. The then ruling junta had deposited US$4.8 billion in two Singapore-based banks—the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) and DBS Group. The amount was natural gas sales, ERI reported.
When contacted, Paul Donowitz, ERI campaigns director, told the Irrawaddy that years ago, ERI acquired sources that Myanmar had stashed vast amounts of foreign reserves generated from Yetagon Gas Project in overseas banks, including Singapore’s OCBC and DBS.
In 2009 also, an article quoted the ERI’s report as saying the then ruling junta had stashed billions of US dollars in OCBC and DBS. The money was generated from the Yadana Gas Project operated by oil giants Total and Chevron and Thailand’s PTTEP. More than 60% of gas was imported to Thailand.
The Irrawaddy’s news report also quoted a foreign banking consultant in Thailand, who declined to be named, as saying that the government and some military leaders did not add gas sales to the public accounts according to the market price (1000 kyats for $1). Instead, they paid Ks 6 for $1 officially set by the government. The difference was therefore siphoned off and sent to banks in Singapore and Dubai.
The question by The Daily Eleven as to whether there was a plan to investigate the accounts in Singapore was unanswered.
When asked which bank accounts received the money generated from gas sales to Thailand, Deputy Energy Minister Myint Zaw said it only went to the local banks accounts.
“Our ministry does not open any foreign bank account,” said the deputy minister.
Then, The Daily Eleven questioned which foreign banks Myanmar had put its foreign reserves—Swiss, Singaporean or Chinese banks.
The Central Bank governor, Kyaw Kyaw Maung replied: “We have placed the foreign reserves in various countries. It is not appropriate to say which countries. Foreign merchants deal with banks in many nations across the world for exports and imports. We have no limitation such as Singapore or China. Export and import companies, government enterprises and all banks here have money in foreign banks. The Central Bank, Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank, Myanmar Economic Bank, Myanmar Foreign Investment Bank and private banks have accounts in foreign countries for their smooth business transactions. I will not go into detail.”