World Bank bashed for funding Myanmar projects linked to tycoons

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A US-based campaign group focusing on Myanmar urged the World Bank’s financing arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) to reconsider its Myanmar investments, saying its support for luxury developments and projects linked to influential people associated with the former military regime run counter to the World Bank’s mission of ending poverty and corruption.

The US Campaign for Burma, a organisation promoting human rights, democracy and freedom for Myanmar people, has asked the IFC to postpone the approval of $30 million to Yoma Bank for loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises, citing concerns over its owner Serge Pun and his ties to the military.

“This raises serious accountability concerns, particularly because US officials recommended Yoma Bank’s owner Serge Pun for sanctions in 2008,” the campaign said in a news release.

So far the IFC has loaned Pun $75 million to redevelop ten acres near Yangon’s old railway station into an upscale office, hotel and apartment complex. The Landmark Myanmar, a $515 million development, is wholly owned by Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd and First Myanmar Investment Co Ltd, which are subsidiaries of Serge Pun and Associates, according to the company and IFC’s websites.

If the latest loan gets approved, the Yoma Bank would have received 45 per cent of the IFC’s $232.5 million portfolio in Myanmar.

The IFC has also been criticised for a plan to provide funding for a cement factory project in Mandalay led by a division of the Shwe Taung Group, a conglomerate whose majority stake is held by the family of the company’s chairman, Aik Htun.

The IFC plans to invest up to $15 million in the project and provide a loan of up to $20 million; the project’s total cost is estimated to be $110 million.

The US government previously alleged that Aik Htun had “connections with the narcotics trade” while running now-defunct and formerly sanctioned Asia Wealth Bank more than a decade ago that was also alleged to be involved in money laundering activities. Htun was also on the European Union sanctions list.

 

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A US-based campaign group focusing on Myanmar urged the World Bank’s financing arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) to reconsider its Myanmar investments, saying its support for luxury developments and projects linked to influential people associated with the former military regime run counter to the World Bank’s mission of ending poverty and corruption. The US Campaign for Burma, a organisation promoting human rights, democracy and freedom for Myanmar people, has asked the IFC to postpone the approval of $30 million to Yoma Bank for loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises, citing concerns over its owner Serge Pun and his ties to the...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

A US-based campaign group focusing on Myanmar urged the World Bank’s financing arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) to reconsider its Myanmar investments, saying its support for luxury developments and projects linked to influential people associated with the former military regime run counter to the World Bank’s mission of ending poverty and corruption.

The US Campaign for Burma, a organisation promoting human rights, democracy and freedom for Myanmar people, has asked the IFC to postpone the approval of $30 million to Yoma Bank for loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises, citing concerns over its owner Serge Pun and his ties to the military.

“This raises serious accountability concerns, particularly because US officials recommended Yoma Bank’s owner Serge Pun for sanctions in 2008,” the campaign said in a news release.

So far the IFC has loaned Pun $75 million to redevelop ten acres near Yangon’s old railway station into an upscale office, hotel and apartment complex. The Landmark Myanmar, a $515 million development, is wholly owned by Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd and First Myanmar Investment Co Ltd, which are subsidiaries of Serge Pun and Associates, according to the company and IFC’s websites.

If the latest loan gets approved, the Yoma Bank would have received 45 per cent of the IFC’s $232.5 million portfolio in Myanmar.

The IFC has also been criticised for a plan to provide funding for a cement factory project in Mandalay led by a division of the Shwe Taung Group, a conglomerate whose majority stake is held by the family of the company’s chairman, Aik Htun.

The IFC plans to invest up to $15 million in the project and provide a loan of up to $20 million; the project’s total cost is estimated to be $110 million.

The US government previously alleged that Aik Htun had “connections with the narcotics trade” while running now-defunct and formerly sanctioned Asia Wealth Bank more than a decade ago that was also alleged to be involved in money laundering activities. Htun was also on the European Union sanctions list.

 

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