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US allows business with 4 Myanmar banks

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm •  Published: February 22, 2013

"Increased access to Burma's banking system for our companies and non-governmental organizations will help to facilitate Burma's continued social and economic development, serve as a model for responsible investment, and help to provide a better future for the Burmese people," Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a statement.

Ayeyarwady Bank is owned by Zaw Zaw, a Burmese tycoon on the sanctions list. A June 2009 leaked diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Yangon described him as "one of Burma's up-and-coming cronies," but he has recently donated to charities supported by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's political party.

Asia Green Development Bank is owned by Tay Za, described by Treasury in 2008 as an arms dealer and financial henchman of the former military regime. A company controlled by Tay Za has also donated to the Suu Kyi-backed charities.

All four banks remain on the so-called Specially Designated Nationals list, and while U.S. companies can conduct transactions through the banks, they can't invest or do joint ventures with them.

John Sullivan, Treasury spokesman for terrorism and financial intelligence, said keeping the banks on the sanctions list and retaining the underlying authorities of the sanctions serves as an "insurance policy" in case of backsliding.

U.S. businesses are still barred from transactions with three other banks on the list: Innwa Bank, Myawaddy Bank and Myanma Foreign Trade Bank.