Press release / Feb. 28, 2020

Global Witness statement on new Myanmar Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (MEITI) report on disclosure of beneficial ownership information

Today’s MEITI report marks another important step for transparency and anti-corruption efforts in Myanmar, but challenges remain.

A report released today by Myanmar EITI looks at the first tranche of publicly available beneficial ownership and politically exposed persons (PEP) disclosures in Myanmar. Set up largely in response to beneficial ownership requirements under its EITI process, the public registry is a landmark for corporate transparency in Myanmar.

The disclosures closely follow a requirement issued in late 2019 for all companies registered in Myanmar to disclose information on beneficial ownership and PEP’s to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and Internal Revenue Department for which Global Witness submitted a Comment addressing legal and practical challenges.

“Taken together, these new legal requirements have the potential to directly support the country’s fight against corruption, conflicts-of-interest, illicit financial activities, and conflict,” said Paul Donowitz, Myanmar Team Leader for Global Witness. “This information can help prevent the corporate anonymity which facilitates money laundering, brings transparency to licencing and public procurement, reduces opportunities for fraud and cronyism, and will boost investor confidence. For all these reasons, DICA’s efforts are a welcome move in the right direction,” Donowitz said.

However, major challenges remain. “The released data itself is riddled with incomplete and inaccurate information, and the current legal framework and available resources for implementation and enforcement are lacking.” Donowitz said. “In addition, those responsible for maintaining these public registries must guard carefully against the temptations of backsliding. For example, DICA’s decision to place crucial identifying information about corporate officers behind a paywall on its company registry sends the wrong message both to domestic actors and the international community.“

Tackling secrecy and hidden interests should be a priority for Myanmar, which despite progress has recently been placed back on the Financial Action Task Force’s anti-money laundering watch list. In making its decision, the international financial watchdog highlighted a high degree of criminal activity and insufficient understanding of “money-laundering risks in key areas”.

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Contacts

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Martha Marcuson, Communications Advisor

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Paul Donowitz, Campaign Leader, Myanmar

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US: +1 202 365 3986

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