ANZ, UOB face scrutiny over Myanmar military bank deals | banking news

Leading international financial institutions have conducted transactions with Innwa Bank since the coup, documents show.

According to an advocacy group and leaked documents, major banks including Australia’s ANZ have continued to do business with a bank owned by the Myanmar military administration despite their bloody crackdown on anti-coup protests.

ANZ, one of Australia’s “Big Four” banks, was used by Hong Kong-based insurer AIA to transfer funds to Innwa Bank, owned by military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), in August and September 2021, Justice for Myanmar said. citing leaked bank documents.

Malaysian company edotco, which leases cell towers to Myanmar mobile operator Mytel, also used ANZ to conduct transactions with Innwa Bank accounts in April and June 2021, according to the activist group’s report released Wednesday.

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

The Singapore lender was also used in transactions between Myanmar-based milk powder supplier Lamintayar and a number of its executives.

Meanwhile, BIDV, a lender jointly owned by the State Bank of Vietnam and South Korea’s KEB Hana Bank, completed at least 18 transactions with Telecom International Myanmar, which Justice for Myanmar says is partially owned by MEC.

Close-up of the blue ANZ sign with white writing and a blurred background of a rainy sidewalk, with a woman walking by holding a red umbrella
ANZ, one of Australia’s “big four” banks, was used to transfer funds to Myanmar’s military-run Innwa Bank, according to leaked documents [File: Tim Wimborne/Reuters]

Innwa Bank’s leaked documents were obtained and published online by Distributed Denial of Secrets, a self-proclaimed transparency collective that regularly publishes information hacked by governments and corporations.

A UOB spokesman said the bank could not comment on individual customer relationships but would “put in place enhanced due diligence on customer relationships and transactions with Myanmar where appropriate”.

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

“As we apply increased due diligence measures, we will ensure that the flow of funds for humanitarian assistance, legitimate nonprofit activities and remittances is not disrupted.”

Al Jazeera contacted ANZ, BIDV and AIA for comment.

An ANZ spokesman, quoted by Justice for Myanmar, said the bank is monitoring the situation in Myanmar and acting in accordance with all laws.

“ANZ must comply with all applicable laws in all jurisdictions in which it operates, including the requirements of supranational organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union,” the spokesman said, according to the activist group.

According to a 2019 independent fact-finding mission by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Innwa Bank played a key role in allowing Myanmar’s military companies to maintain access to the international banking system despite US sanctions

While the EU, UK and US have imposed sanctions on MEC over the 2021 military coup, leading economies like Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have done nothing to stop the conglomerate.

Justice for Myanmar said the international banks’ deal with Innwa Bank showed “a failure by governments to take a coordinated approach to isolate military conglomerates and cut the junta’s revenue streams.”

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

Myanmar’s military administration has killed more than 2,400 civilians since toppling the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, activists said.

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