US government officials prevented Myanmar’s military leadership from moving $1 billion held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in early February, just days after the nation’s military seized power.
Citing three officials, Reuters reported that the transaction was attempted by the Central Bank of Myanmar on February 4, three days after the military coup unfolded and caught the attention of world leaders.
One of the sources informed the outlet that the financial request was blocked automatically because Myanmar was previously placed on the international Financial Action Task Force’s so-called “gray list” over money-laundering concerns. Myanmar reportedly ended up on the list over concerns that drug-trafficking funds were being cleared through the country’s bank system.
After the initial safeguard was triggered, US officials reportedly then held off on processing the transaction, eventually indefinitely blocking Myanmar from accessing the funds after Biden's February 10 executive order freezed the nation’s bank accounts in the US.
At the time, Biden did not indicate during his declaration that Myanmar’s military officials had attempted to access the funds. It’s also worth noting that the Central Bank of Myanmar was specifically named as part of Myanmar’s post-coup government.
Two of the sources Reuters spoke to on the condition of anonymity revealed that the executive order was intentionally meant to give the Federal Reserve legal authority to freeze the funds, which are managed by the Central Bank and International Account Services, an arm of the Federal Reserve.
Neither the Federal Reserve nor the US State Department have commented on the report.
Findings by Reuters came on the same day that the US Department of Commerce added the country’s Defense Ministry, Home Affairs Ministry, the Myanmar Economic Corporation and the Myanmar Economic Holding Limited to a trading blacklist.
Aside from the US, multiple countries, including Canada, the UK and the European Union, have issued sanctions against Myanmar after the February 1 coup unfolded and was followed by a deadly crackdown against residents opposing the military takeover.
The United Nations stated that Thursday proved to be the deadliest day since the coup began after some 38 people were killed. To date, upwards of 50 individuals have died amid the violent unrest.
Myanmar came under military control once its leadership declared the November 2020 elections were fraudulent, since the National League for Democracy party overwhelmingly beat out individuals from the military-backed political party.
Claiming that the previous government failed to thoroughly examine the allegations, the military has since imposed a one-year state of emergency, with new elections expected to be held in the near future. The country’s election commission previously indicated that there was no evidence to support fraud claims.