Big banks face scrutiny over business with Myanmar banks Banking News

Despite a bloody crackdown on anti-coup protests by Myanmar’s military junta, major banks including Australia’s ANZ have continued to do business with one bank, according to an advocacy group and leaked documents.

ANZ, one of Australia’s “big four” banks, was used in August and September 2021 by Hong Kong-based insurer AIA to pay the military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) for reasons, the Myanmar Justice Department said. Hua Bank moved funds, citing leaked bank documents.

The Malaysian company edotco, which leased towers to Myanmar mobile operator Mytel, also used ANZ and Inhua Bank accounts in April and June 2021 for transactions, according to a report released by the militant group on Wednesday.

Singapore’s UOB, one of Southeast Asia’s largest banks, facilitated a deal between a Chinese shipping company and MEC in June and July last year,

The Singaporean bank was also used in deals between Myanmar-based milk powder supplier Lamintayar and some of its executives.

Meanwhile, BIDV, a lender jointly owned by the State Bank of Vietnam and South Korea’s KEB Hana Bank, conducted at least 18 transactions with Telecom International Myanmar, which is partly owned by MEC, according to Myanmar’s Department of Justice.

Closeup of blue ANZ sign with white lettering and blurred rainy sidewalk background with woman walking by with red umbrella
ANZ, one of Australia’s “big four” banks, has been used to transfer money to Inwa Bank owned by Myanmar’s military, according to leaked documents [File: Tim Wimborne/Reuters]

The leaked Innwa Bank documents were obtained and posted online by Distributed Denial of Secrets, a group that calls itself the Transparency Collective, which regularly publishes information stolen from governments and businesses.

An ANZ spokesman said the bank was closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar.

“ANZ must comply with all applicable laws in all jurisdictions in which it operates, including the requirements of supranational organisations such as the UN and the EU,” a spokesman told Al Jazeera.

“While we cannot comment on specific relationships or transactions, ANZ has robust processes in place to ensure that all activities undertaken comply with applicable regulations. These processes are in line with the Financial Action Task Force recommendations.”

A UOB spokesman said the bank could not comment on individual client relationships but would “enhance due diligence on client relationships and transactions involving Myanmar where applicable”.

“We are closely monitoring the situation while ensuring compliance with local and international rules and regulations,” the spokesman told Al Jazeera.

“In implementing enhanced due diligence measures, we will ensure that the flow of funds for humanitarian aid, legitimate nonprofit activities and remittances is not disrupted.”

Al Jazeera contacted BIDV, AIA and KEB Hana Bank for comment.

According to the UN Human Rights Council’s 2019 Independent Fact-Finding Mission, Inwa Bank played a major role in enabling Myanmar military-owned companies to maintain access to the international banking system during US sanctions

While the EU, UK and US have imposed sanctions on the MEC over the 2021 military coup, major economies such as Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have yet to take action against the MEC.

The Burmese judge said the international bank’s business with Inhua showed “the government’s failure to take a coordinated approach to isolating the military group and cutting the junta’s revenue stream”.

“Banks must immediately ban transactions with Myanmar military banks or risk participating in the military junta’s international crimes,” the militant group said.

Myanmar’s military junta has killed more than 2,400 civilians since it overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in February 2021, according to activists.

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