Scandal of gem traders’ missing millions continues

Scandal of gem traders’ missing millions continues

Former government ministers have lashed out at embezzlement accusations, leveled at them by the nation’s gem traders association.

The Myanmar Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association claimed the Thein Sein administration mishandled a fund of US $87 million and have demanded an investigation into the alleged loss of $80 million.

On Thursday, former mining minister Myint Aung denied the allegations in a Naypyidaw press conference, dismissing rumours that former president Thein Sein was directly involved.

Further, the association claims $7 million was handed to the former president to fund an art centre.

Myint Aung rejected the allegation against Thein Sein, stating: “Mr President is our party chairman and I see this as a personal attack and an attempt to defame the party and it should be dealt with legal action.”

He clarified the amount of cash in question to set up the arts centre was only $1 million and it was not given to the former president, but deposited in an account at the Construction and Housing Development Bank. he said.

Thein Sein’s former President’s Office minister, Soe Thane, was handed a missing $5 million sum, which they claim is also unaccounted for.

“There was no foul play on our part – everything was according to the procedures. The Myanmar Gems Emporium Central Organising Committee decides on how the fund should be utilised, which comes from the sale of gems that belong to the population of Burma,” said Myint Aung.

The gems association claims $87 million – which was collected from members between 2009 and 2016 from a 1 percent tax on gems sales – has been drained from the fund with no explanation. They’ve called on the National League for Democracy to investigate the previous administration for embezzlement.

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Meanwhile, the gems association held a press conference in Rangoon on the same day, claiming the amount of funds embezzled was actually US$103.9 million in total.

The association’s executive member Kyaw Kyaw Oo said: “There have been scandals every past year but in the past we didn’t have the right to complain, and even if we could, we wouldn’t get anywhere with it. We are making the complaint as the situation is now different under the new government.”

The Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission’s member Thein Lwin has suggested a special tribunal should be formed to investigate the case.

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