Graft trial for officials accused of shady Rangoon land deal continues

Graft trial for officials accused of shady Rangoon land deal continues

The corruption trial for a handful of Karen State government and Ministry of Home Affairs officials continued with a fourth hearing on Monday, at which the presiding magistrate ruled against one of the defendants’ bail application.

Monday’s hearing was held at the Rangoon Division high court, with the judge’s rejection of the defendant’s bail request supported by the Rangoon Division Advocate-General’s Office, which cited the serious nature of the alleged crime and lengthy maximum prison sentences under the law if those accused are found guilty.

The Karen State government’s secretary, Pyone Cho, police Lieutenant-Colonel Kyaw Zeya and Captain Nay Myo Tun, and civilians Myo Khine and Kyaw Naing Soe, were arrested in July and are accused of corruption in connection with a Rangoon land deal inked under former President Thein Sein’s administration, in 2015. The deputy director of the Mawlite district administrative department, Kyaw Ye Thwe, has also been implicated in the case but remains at large.

Pyone Cho served as deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2015, when he is accused of arranging a shady deal for a plot of land in Rangoon, the commercial capital. He is said to have accepted two vehicles as a bribe in connection with the transaction, according to Burma’s Anti-Corruption Commission.

At Monday’s hearing the plaintiff Sein Tin, who is also a member of the Anti-Corruption Commission, was questioned by the prosecution. The defendants’ lawyers will also question him at the next hearing, slated for 18 September.

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The plaintiff told the court that the case was originally reported to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which later transferred it to the Anti-Corruption Commission. The commission then formed an investigative team to handle the case. Sein Tin said two complaint letters had been lodged concerning the sale of the Rangoon land plot, worth an estimated 100 million kyats ($73,500).

Police Lieutenant-Colonel Kyaw Zeya saw his bail request rejected at Monday’s hearing.

Chit Ko Ko, a lawyer for Myo Khine and Kyaw Naing Soe, said his clients would not seek bail, lacking a sufficiently compelling case for their release pending the trial’s outcome.

“My two defendants will not apply for bail. It’s a waste of time,” he said, adding that the prosecution had lined up 27 witnesses to testify in the ongoing trial.

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