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Homeland Security

24 January 2005

Justice Department Charges Eight in Burma with Drug Trafficking

Long-term international effort targeted leaders of United Wa State Army

Officials of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have announced the indictment of eight senior leaders of the Burma-based United Wa State Army (UWSA) on charges of heroin and methamphetamine trafficking, according to a January 24 press release from the Justice Department.

The UWSA, considered one of the largest heroin-producing and trafficking organizations in the world, controls a large territory in eastern Burma, part of the Southeast Asian opium- and heroin-producing region known as the "Golden Triangle." The organization produced over 180 metric tons of opium in 2004, the Justice Department said.

The indictment is a result of a long-term international initiative led by the DEA in cooperation with Thailand's Royal Thai Police. The initiative, code-named "Operation Warlord," was intended to stop the flow of illegal drugs "at their source," the Justice Department said.

"Operation Warlord" targeted top leaders of the UWSA, which claims to be an independence movement of some 16,000 armed forces challenging Burma's military regime for the creation of an ethnic Wa state.

Justice Department officials charge that the UWSA is in fact a "powerful criminal syndicate and worldwide narcotics trafficking organization." The indictment alleges that the UWSA and the eight named defendants "have engaged in collection, transport, and taxing of opium in the territories under their control; the manufacture and distribution of heroin and methamphetamine to the United States and throughout the world; and the laundering of narcotics proceeds through seemingly legitimate businesses."

The indictment also alleges that the defendants provide security for drug laboratories in Wa territory and drug-smuggling caravans moving from east Burma to Thailand, China, and Laos, where independent brokers move shipments to international distribution organizations in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

According to DEA records, since 1985 the defendants have imported over a ton of heroin with a retail value of $1 billion into the United States alone. More recently, over 12,000 methamphetamine tablets labeled with the UWSA logo have been seized at mail facilities throughout the United States.

"The enormous profits derived from the sale of these illegal drugs...undermine respect for the rule of law and destabilize government institutions around the globe," DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Anthony Placido said after the indictment was unsealed.

Both the UWSA and one of the named defendants, Wei Hsueh Kang, have already been designated "Drug Kingpins" under the 1999 Foreign Narcotics Designation Kingpin Act, known as the "Kingpin Act." The Kingpin Act, which authorizes the application of economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers on a worldwide basis, was modeled after a 1995 presidential executive order that applied economic sanctions against narcotics cartels based in Colombia. The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers the act.

If convicted, the defendants each face mandatory prison sentences and fines. The indictment seeks a forfeiture money judgment of a total of $103 million, for which all eight defendants are jointly and severally liable. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of the defendants' directly traceable assets, including the Hong Pang Group holding company and affiliated businesses, operating in Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong, China and other countries. These businesses, which are connected to the defendants' drug trafficking activities, are managed, operated, financed, and controlled by the defendants.

"We are committed to stopping the flow of dangerous narcotics...by going straight to the source and putting international drug traffickers out of business," said United States Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf. "Together with our global network of law enforcement partners, we will continue to mobilize all of our resources against those who would seek to poison our society for profit."

Following is the text of the Justice Department press release:

(begin text)

U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Drug Enforcement Administration
Eastern District of New York
New York Field Division

One Pierrepont Plaza
99 Tenth Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11201

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 24, 2005

Contacts: Robert Nardoza
U.S. Attorney's Office
(718) 254-6323

Elizabeth Jordan
Drug Enforcement Administration
(212) 337-2906

PRESS RELEASE

EIGHT HIGH-RANKING LEADERS OF SOUTHEAST ASIA'S LARGEST NARCOTICS TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATION INDICTED BY A FEDERAL GRAND JURY IN BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

The Defendants' United Wa State Army Controls Large Sections of Eastern Burma

Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Anthony P. Placido, Special Agent-in-Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Field Division, today announced the unsealing of an indictment against eight high-ranking leaders of the United Wa State Army ("UWSA") in Eastern Burma on heroin and methamphetamine trafficking charges. The UWSA is one of the largest heroin producing and trafficking organizations in the world and was responsible for the production of more than 180 metric tons of opium in 2004. Both the UWSA and one of the charged defendants, Wei Hsueh Kang, have been designated "Drug Kingpins" by the United States government.

Today's indictment is the product of a long-term initiative led by the Drug Enforcement Administration, with the cooperation of several branches of the Royal Thai Police, including the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, the Office of Narcotics Control Board and the Anti- Money Laundering Office. Code-named "Operation Warlord," the initiative focused on stemming the flow of illegal drugs at their source, and is the latest chapter in a long history of collaboration between the DEA and other law enforcement agencies to combat heroin trafficking in Southeast Asia.

"Operation Warlord" targeted senior members of the UWSA, who control large segments of Eastern Burma, in the heart of the infamous "Golden Triangle" of heroin production. The UWSA, with approximately 16,000 armed forces under its control, purports to be an independence movement seeking the creation of an ethnic Wa state. In fact, as today's indictment alleges, the UWSA has operated for decades as a powerful criminal syndicate and worldwide narcotics trafficking organization. According to the indictment unsealed today, the UWSA and the named defendants have engaged in the collection, transport, and taxing of opium in the territories under their control; the manufacture and distribution of heroin and methamphetamine to the United States and throughout the world; and the laundering of narcotics proceeds through seemingly legitimate businesses.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the UWSA, under the defendants' control, became one of the largest heroin producing and trafficking groups in the world. DEA reporting indicates that since 1985, the defendants named in this indictment have imported more than a ton of heroin, with a retail (street) value of one billion dollars, into the United States alone, and vast amounts throughout the world. More recently, the defendants and UWSA began production of methamphetamine for export to the United States and elsewhere. To date, approximately 12,000 methamphetamine tablets, labeled with the UWSA logo, have been seized by the DEA at mail facilities located within the United States.

The indictment alleges that through the UWSA, the defendants control all decision-making relative to the cultivation, collection and transportation of opium in the territory under UWSA control. This includes the taxing of narcotics shipments and drug refineries, and the collection of lucrative narcotics proceeds. In return, the defendants and the UWSA provide security for heroin and methamphetamine laboratories in Wa territory, as well as for drug caravans smuggling heroin and methamphetamine from Eastern Burma to Thailand, China, and Laos, where independent brokers smuggle shipments to international distribution organizations in Asia, Europe and the United States.

According to UWSA documents obtained by the DEA, each of the defendants holds a high-level leadership position in the UWSA. Wei Hsueh Kang, currently a special advisor to UWSA's Central Committee, previously served as commander of UWSA's Division 171, and was one of the first individuals designated by the United States in June 2000 as a "Drug Kingpin" pursuant to the 1999 Foreign Narcotics Designation Kingpin Act. (UWSA, as an organization, was designated a "Drug Kingpin" in 2003).

In addition to the charges filed against him today, Wei Hsueh Kang also faces charges stemming from an indictment filed in 1993 in the Eastern District of New York for conspiring to distribute and import heroin into the United States. The U.S. State Department is currently offering a $2 million reward for information leading to Wei Hsueh Kang's capture.

Wei Hsueh Lung has served as the UWSA Minister of Trade and Finance and as a member of the UWSA's Central Committee. Wei Hsueh Ying has served as the commander of military forces in the UWSA's Southern Military Region and is in charge of trade in the UWSA's Division 171. Pao Yu Hsiang is the Commander-in-Chief of the UWSA and serves as a member of the UWSA's Central Committee and Politburo. Pao Yu Yi is a member of the UWSA's Central Committee and is the Political Commissar of UWSA's Southern Military Region. Pao Yu Hua has controlled UWSA military forces in the Mong Hpen region and has served as commander of a UWSA security detachment in Mong Mao area. Pao Yu Liang is a member of the UWSA's Central Committee and has served as the governor and commander of UWSA forces in the Mong Mao area. Pao Hua Chiang has served as a UWSA trade and finance officer. The Weis are brothers, as are the Paos, with the exception of Pao Hua Chiang.

If convicted, the defendants each face a mandatory minimum of 10 years, and a maximum of life imprisonment, and a $4,000,000 fine. In addition, the indictment seeks a forfeiture money judgment against all defendants totalling $103 million, for which the defendants are jointly and severally liable. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of directly traceable assets of the defendants, including all assets of the Hong Pang Group, a holding company, and affiliated companies in the jewelry, communications, agriculture and construction businesses, all of which represent the proceeds of the defendants' narcotics trafficking activities. These companies are located or doing business in Thailand, Burma, Hong Kong, China and elsewhere, and are managed, operated, financed and controlled by the defendants.

"We are committed to stopping the flow of dangerous narcotics into our communities by going straight to the source and putting international drug traffickers out of business," stated United States Attorney Mauskopf. "Together with our global network of law enforcement partners, we will continue to mobilize all of our resources against those who would seek to poison our society for profit."

DEA Special Agent-in-Charge Placido stated, "Transnational drug crime represents a grave threat to the safety and security of all Americans. The illegal enterprise operated by the UWSA fosters drug addiction, crime, violence and terrible social damage here in the U.S. The enormous profits derived from the sale of these illegal drugs also undermine respect for the rule of law and destabilize government institutions around the globe. We are committed to work with our international partners to disrupt and dismantle these dangerous criminal syndicates."

Ms. Mauskopf and Mr. Placido thanked Special Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration assigned to the following offices: the New York Field Division; the Bangkok Country Office; the Chiang Mai, Thailand Resident Office; the Rangoon, Burma Country Office; the Hong Kong Country Office; and the Chicago Field Division. In addition, Ms. Mauskopf and Mr. Placido commended the U.S. Department of State and the Royal Thai Police for their outstanding work in this case, and emphasized that the investigation is continuing.

The case has been assigned to United States District Court Chief Judge Edward R. Korman. The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael J. Ramos and Claire S. Kedeshian.

The Defendants

Name: WEI HSUEH KANG (also known as Somboon Kadumporn)
Residence: Burma

Name: WEI HSUEH LUNG
Residence: Burma

Name: WEI HSUEH YING
Residence: Burma

Name: PAO YU HSIANG (also known as Ta Pang)
Residence: Burma

Name: PAO HUA CHIANG (also known as Ta Kat)
Residence: Burma

Name: PAO YU YI (also known as Ta Rang)
Residence: Burma

Name: PAO YU LIANG
Residence: Burma

Name: PAO YU HUA
Residence: Burma

The charges announced today are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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