Singapore hypocrisy: hang the drug couriers while investing with the drug barons
The net effect of the Singapore government’s barbaric hanging of drug courier Van Nguyen will be to increase profits for the government’s trading partner, Burmese drug lord Lo Hsing Han.
While the high-profile execution will no doubt reduce the supply of heroin somewhat, the inelastic demand by addicts will just increase the margin to the wholesaler, Lo.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his authoritarian government display extreme hypocrisy in executing dozens of drug couriers while at the same time going into business ventures with drug trafficker Lo.
The former US Assistant of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, declared in 1997, “Since 1988 over half of the $US1 billion investments from Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han”.
The Singapore government, in cooperation with Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, is directly connected to key business ventures of drug kingpin Lo through an investment group called the Myanmar Fund. The fund, which provides investors “with long term capital appreciation from direct or indirect investments in Myanmar (Burma),” is registered as a tax-free fund in Jersey, Channel Islands, according to documents provided to the Irish Stock Exchange.
Singapore’s largest government-controlled financial institution – the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) – is listed in the documents along with Morgan Guaranty Trust Bank (a J.P. Morgan subsidiary separate from the Trust Company) as a core shareholder in the Myanmar Fund. A September 1996 GIC business profile from the Registry of Companies and Businesses in Singapore shows that high-level Singaporean politicians were officers and directors of the GIC, including senior minister Lee Kuan Yew; his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; and finance minister Dr Richard Hu. As a core shareholder, the GIC helps determine how the fund’s money is invested in Burma.
Singapore’s economic linkage with Burma is one of the most vital factors for the survival of Burma’s military regime,” says Professor Mya Maung, a Burmese economist based in Boston. This link, he continues, is also central to “the expansion of the heroin trade.” Singapore has achieved the distinction of being the Burmese junta’s number one business partner -both largest trading partner and largest foreign investor. More than half these investments, totalling upwards of US$1.3 billion, are in partnership with Burma’s infamous heroin kingpin Lo Hsing Han, who now controls a substantial portion of the world’s opium trade. The close political, economic, and military relationship between the two countries facilitates the weaving of millions of narco-dollars into the legitimate world economy.
The Burmese military dictatorship- known by the acronym SLORC for State Law and Order Restoration Council until it changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997-depends on the resources of Burma’s drug barons for its financial survival. Since it seized power in 1988, opium production has doubled, equalling all legal exports and making the country the world’s biggest heroin supplier. With 50 percent of the economy unaccounted for, drug traffickers, businessmen and government officials are able to integrate spectacular profits throughout Burma’s permanent economy.
Both the Burmese generals and drug lords have been able to take advantage of Singapore’s liberal banking laws and money laundering opportunities. In 1991, for example, the SLORC laundered US$400 million through a Singapore bank which it used as a down payment for Chinese arms. With no laws to prevent money laundering, Singapore is widely reported to be a financial haven for Burma’s elite, including its two most notorious traffickers, Lo Hsing Han and Khun Sa (also known by his Chinese name Chang Qifu).
Lo Hsing Han is chairman of Burma’s biggest conglomerate, Asia World, founded in 1992. His son, Steven Law, is managing director and also runs three companies in Singapore which are “overseas branches” of Asia World. Although Singapore is proud of its mandatory death penalty for small-time narcotics smugglers and heroin addicts, both father and son travel freely in and out of the friendly (to them) island-nation.
In 1996, when Law married his Singaporean business partner in a lavish, well-publicized Rangoon wedding, guests from Singapore were flown in on two chartered planes. According to a high-level US government official familiar with the situation, Law’s wife Cecilia Ng operates an underground banking system, and “is a contact for people in Burma to get their drug money into Singapore, because she has a connection to the government.” According to the official, Ng spends half her time in Rangoon, half in Singapore; when in Rangoon, she is headquartered at Asia Lite, a subsidiary of Asia World.
The husband-wife team are also the sole officers and shareholders of Asia World subsidiary, Kokang Singapore Pte Ltd. Founded in Singapore in 1993 with $4.6 million, the company “engages in general trading activities in goods/products of all kinds/descriptions.
The Burmese junta’s control of its impoverished population through crude methods such as torture, forced labour, and mass killings leaves it open to international condemnation. In contrast, Singapore takes a more sophisticated approach to repression, both at home and abroad. While the island-nations citizens have material benefits and the appearance of rule of law, they live in fear of an Orwellian government that closely monitors every aspect of their lives. The ruling party often sues those who dare to oppose it on trumped up defamation charges, forcing many into bankruptcy or exile.
by Elizabeth Krantz
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