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Myanmar customs chief jailed over corruption

Khin Maung Lin, director general of the Customs Department has been sentenced to 66 years in jail as part of an anti-corruption drive.

india Updated: Oct 31, 2006 13:03 IST

The customs chief in military-ruled Myanmar has been sentenced to 66 years in prison as part of an anti-corruption drive that has gutted the department, legal sources said on Tuesday.

"Khin Maung Lin, director general of the Customs Department, has been given a 66-year jail sentence while his personal assistant Aung Kyaw Oo got seven years in connection with this particular case," a legal source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the agency.

"He was charged in 11 cases, including charges of bribery and corruption," the source said.

His assistant Aung Kyaw Oo still faces additional charges, as do hundreds of other customs department staff being tried in secret at the notorious Insein Jail complex north of Yangon, the source said.

The charges apparently stemmed from claims of wrongdoing in the export of beans and pulses last year at the Yangon Port and at the Muse border post in northeastern Shan state.

Khin Maung Lin is a former military colonel and was said to have strong links to Myanmar's junta leader, Senior General Than Shwe.

Another five high-ranking customs officials could be charged within days, the source said.

All 500 staff in the department have been taken into custody for questioning at some point during the last two months, the source said.

"Half of them might be charged with bribery and corruption," he said, adding that it was unclear whether the other half had been released.

"Property and assets of those undergoing trial have been confiscated by the state," another legal source told AFP.

This latest official purge is the biggest since the pervasive Military Intelligence organization headed by former prime minister Khin Nyunt was dismantled on similar charges in late 2004.

Khin Nyunt had led the feared military intelligence for two decades, but the military dismantled the entire network and jailed some 300 people on corruption charges. The former premier remains under house arrest.

"We expect that all of the 500 personnel in the Customs Department will be affected one way or the other by the purge," the second legal source said.

Meanwhile, some 60 military personnel were being trained at the Ye Mon military base outside of Yangon to take over the top customs posts, including that of the director general, he said.

First Published: Oct 31, 2006 13:03 IST