Rice exporter allegedly defrauds merchants out of K5.3 billion

The Myanmar Rice Trader’s Association at the Bayintnaung Market. Photo: MOI
The Myanmar Rice Trader’s Association at the Bayintnaung Market. Photo: MOI

A rice exporter is believed to be on the run after he allegedly swindled 64 rice merchants out of K5.3 billion (US$3.9 million). The merchants have filed a complaint through the Myanmar Rice Traders Association, which is preparing to file a lawsuit against the suspect.

The rice merchants, who work out of Bayintnaung Market in northwest Yangon, say exporter Aung Swe Oo and his company ASO Co. Ltd. took their money without delivering the product. Each of the merchants claims a loss of between K10 million ($7,300) and K800 million ($587,000).

According to Aung Than Oo, chairman of the association, Aung Swe Oo had worked as a rice exporter for a year and half, before which he traded beans and sugar. He was reportedly not a member at the Bayintnaung Market and used his brother’s membership card to do business there.

Aung Than Oo also said the suspect was known for selling rice to merchants below market value and only dealing with them through brokers. The association had warned the merchants to operate within the system to ensure the quality of the product and safety of their deals.

Htwe Kyi, a rice merchant from Danuphyu, Ayeyawady Region, told MITV: “We don’t know the company because we always trade through brokers. We lost K200 million ($146,500), and this is the first time [I’ve been defrauded] in 20 years. We are now waiting for the association’s arrangement to get back our money.”

Following the filing of the complaints against Aung Swe Oo, the Myanmar Rice Traders Association has formed several committees to assist with the proceedings: one to provide legal assistance to alleged victims, one to help confiscate ASO-owned property, and one to coordinate legal action against Aung Swe Oo between rice mills and rural merchants.

The association has already confiscated a number of rice bags and other items in a warehouse belonging to Aung Swe Oo, and four plots of land in Mandalay belonging to him have been blocked from being sold or transferred.

In response to this massive case of suspected fraud, the Myanmar Rice Traders Association has committed to tightening its membership regulations and eliminating sales without the product in-hand.

Tin Sein, another rice merchant from Danuphyu, told the Global New Light of Myanmar: “I’m afraid nothing will come out of this. The legal costs are high, too. I want the [Bayintnaung] market to take the lead in making a legal case.”

He claims to have lost K60 million ($44,000) to Aung Swe Oo.

There are also fears among merchants that because of Aung Swe Oo’s alleged fraud, rice will not be exported on time. One of the defendants in the case is a foreign company.

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