Thai prosecutors indict U.S. citizen and Myanmar tycoon on drug charges

Yiamyut Sutthichaya (Prachatai)

Jared Ferrie (OCCRP)

Prosecutors in Thailand have indicted a U.S. citizen and an accused arms dealer from Myanmar for their alleged roles in laundering drug money by purchasing energy from a Thai state-owned company, and sending it over the border to be sold in Myanmar.

       Tun Min Latt (yellow tie) visits an arms exhibition in Bangkok in 2019 with Myanmar leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing (second from left) ,Credit: Senior General Min Aung Hlaing/Government of Myanmar

The indictment, which was not announced publicly but was seen by Prachatai and OCCRP, was filed on December 13 against Thai-American Dean Gultula, and a well-connected Myanmar tycoon named Tun Min Latt. 

The suspects face charges of money laundering and transnational organized crime, which each may carry a prison term of up to 15 years in Thailand. They are also charged with offenses related to drug trafficking, which can result in the death penalty in extreme cases. 

Also indicted were a Thailand-registered firm connected to both men, called Allure Group (P&E) Co Ltd, and two other people involved in the company. Allure Group (P&E) was used to “transform money gained from offences related to drugs into commodities in the form of electricity that was exported to Myanmar,” the indictment reads. 

Tun Min Latt is accused of transferring funds derived from drug sales to the electricity company. Gultula allegedly oversaw the transfer of funds to Allure Group (P&E) from a related firm, Myanmar Allure Group Company Limited. 

The lawyers for the defendants are unknown, and the indictment did not identify them.

The Mae Sai Provincial Electricity Authority declined to comment. But a person within the national state-owned electricity company said, on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to media, that the authority has handed over documents to the Office of Narcotics Control at Thailand’s Ministry of Justice.

Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for the activist group Justice For Myanmar, said the indictment against Tun Min Latt and his associates was a “positive development in seeing some accountability for their alleged money laundering, drug and related offenses.” 

“Tun Min Latt is a major enabler of the Myanmar military, supporting its crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity through providing sources of revenue and arms,” Yadanar Maung said.

In August, the U.K. sanctioned Tun Min Latt’s Star Sapphire Group of Companies, saying it “has been responsible for the brokering of deals for military goods.”

Gultula, Tun Min Latt, and other suspects were arrested on September 17 when Thai police and other agencies swooped in at dawn on several locations in Bangkok.

Just over two weeks later, an arrest warrant was also issued for Gultula’s father-in-law, the Thai senator Upakit Pachariyangkun, on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. But the warrant was quickly withdrawn, OCCRP and Prachatai reported.

Upakit was previously a director of Myanmar Allure Group. Corporate records show that he left the company in 2019, when he was appointed to the Senate by the military, which had overthrown Thailand’s civilian government five years earlier. 

The indictment shows that prosecutors are focused on crimes that took place between February 22 and May 10, 2019. Upakit took his seat in the Senate on May 14 that year. Three months later, Gultula became a director at Myanmar Allure Group.

“It is alarming that Tun Min Latt’s business partner, Upakit Pachariyangkun, has so far escaped justice,” Yadanar Maung said. 

Upakit’s assistant was unable to arrange an interview or provide a statement in time for publication. The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said it had no comment on the charges against Gultula. 

While the imposition of the mandatory death penalty is prohibited under international law, the death penalty in Thailand remains mandatory for a number of offences. In Thailand, there are ways to petition for clemency now and then each year.

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