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Homeland Security

03 November 2005

U.S. Links 11 Individuals, 16 Companies to Burma Drug Syndicate

Treasury Department adds names to economic sanctions list under Kingpin Act

The Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced November 3 that it has added the names of 11 individuals and 16 companies to its list of "Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons" pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).

The individuals and companies are identified as part of the financial network of designated significant foreign narcotics trafficker Wei Hsueh-kang and the Burma-based United Wa State Army (UWSA). 

Wei Hsueh-kang is a senior commander of the UWSA, an armed group that commands up to 20,000 fighters.  The group claims to be an ethnic separatist movement, but the U.S. government has charged that it is in fact a criminal syndicate and narcotics trafficking organization. 

UWSA controls a significant part of eastern Burma in the "Golden Triangle" opium-producing region. 

Wei, who is under U.S. federal indictment on narcotics-related charges, was designated a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Kingpin Act in June 2000.  (See related article.)

UWSA was designated a drug kingpin entity in May 2003.

According to the OFAC announcement, "Today's action freezes any assets found in the United States and prohibits all financial and commercial transactions between the designated persons and entities and any U.S. person."

The Kingpin Act is modeled after a 1995 executive order of the president that authorized OFAC to impose economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers based in Colombia.   Signed into law in December 1999, the act extends OFAC's authority to apply economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers on a worldwide basis.

"Wei and the UWSA's opium trafficking plagues the society and economy of Southeast Asia," said OFAC Director Robert Werner.   "We're acting to protect the U.S. financial sector from this network's tainted drug profits, as well as ensure Wei and his cohorts can't use the American financial system to move or launder their opium proceeds."

For more information on U.S. policy, see U.S. Support for Democracy in Burma and Money Laundering.

Following is the text of the Treasury Department announcement:

(begin text)

Department of the Treasury
Press Room
November 3, 2005
JS-3009

Treasury Action Targets Southeast Asian Narcotics Traffickers

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today identified 11 individuals and 16 companies that are part of the financial and commercial network of designated significant foreign narcotics trafficker Wei Hsueh-kang and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).  The names were added to OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).

"Wei and the UWSA's opium trafficking plagues the society and economy of Southeast Asia.  We're acting to protect the U.S. financial sector from this network's tainted drug profits, as well as ensure Wei and his cohorts can't use the American financial system to move or launder their opium proceeds," said Robert Werner, OFAC Director.

Wei Hsueh-kang (Wei) was designated as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act on June 1, 2000.  Wei serves as a senior commander of the UWSA, which was subsequently designated as a drug kingpin on May 29, 2003.  Wei is the subject of a U.S. federal indictment, unsealed in January 2005, from the Eastern District of New York on narcotics-related charges.  The U.S. Department of State has offered a $2,000,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

The UWSA, with as many as 20,000 armed fighters located in Burma, is the largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in Southeast Asia and was responsible for the production of more than 180 metric tons of opium in 2004.  Many of its senior leaders are also the subject of an indictment unsealed by the Eastern District of New York in January 2005.

Among the key financial individuals designated by OFAC today are Warin Chaichamrunphan, who is one of Wei's wives, and her brother Winai Phitchaiyot.  They act for or on behalf of Wei and the UWSA in various front companies, as well as materially assist in their narcotics trafficking activities.  Several relatives of Warin and Winai are among those designated today.  The 16 companies named, all of which are located in Thailand, were designated for their role in the financial network of Warin, Winai, Wei and the UWSA.  Many of the designated companies have been raided in the past by Thai authorities in connection with an investigation into Wei's money laundering network.

Today's action freezes any assets found in the United States and prohibits all financial and commercial transactions between the designated persons and entities and any U.S. person.

The 27 new names collectively bring the total number of Tier I and Tier II designees under the Kingpin Act to 224:  57 drug kingpins worldwide, 11 individuals and 16 companies in Thailand and 140 companies and other individuals in Mexico, Colombia, Peru and the Caribbean.

This action is part of the ongoing interagency effort of the Treasury, Justice, State, Defense, and Homeland Security Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the Kingpin Act, which was signed into law on December 3, 1999, and which applies economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers on a worldwide basis.  The Kingpin Act was modeled after Executive Order 12978 which applies economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers centered in Colombia, and which is also administered by OFAC.

(end text)

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



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