Saturday, November 19, 2011


Recent political developments in Myanmar, more commonly known as Burma, whether bona fide or merely the regime's clever PR campaign to simulate reform, could suffer from the Law of Unintended Consequences. Even the remote possibility of democracy in some far-off Burmese future may be perceived as a threat to its corrupt PEPs, and its narcotics kingpins, and they may choose to vote with their feet.

Most observers agree that financial institutions in Singapore have been the recipients of the illicit wealth of senior Burmese PEPs, most of whom are general officers in the military. Additionally, narcotics traffickers who enjoy a symbiotic relationship with the government also are believed to hold much of their criminal profits in Singapore. These funds, which are presently safe and secure, and maintained anonymously, may not remain so, should anti-corruption reformers come to power in Burma.

if I am a money launderer for Burma's generals and/or its narcotics kingpins, I am watching the unfolding developments with alarm, for I do not know whether true reform will arrive arrive in their country, whether peacefully, or after a violent struggle. In either event, I do not want to lose my clients' illicitly-acquired wealth.

I will therefore take the appropriate precautions. Personally speaking, since the Hong Kong financial centre appears to be the closest, and safest, place to keep my "flight capital," I would move much of it there. Let some future, democratic, Burmese government try to seize it; I doubt whether it would have any success.

The point of this article is to alert compliance officers to be on the lookout for large wire transfers exiting Singapore, as the Burmese reform stories increase in the media, and heading for jurisdictions that would be immune from Western influence, or the international laws of Comity. Whilst I have selected Hong Kong, for illustrative purposes, there will certainly be other financial centres targeted. Please try not to accept funds that turn out to be Burmese heroin profits, whether held by PEPs, or narcotraffickers.

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