Detained MOGE employees released after nearly two weeks of questioning

More than 20 staffers at the state-run enterprise were arrested earlier this month after a leaked document revealed attempts to circumvent sanctions

Three employees of the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) who were among around two dozen detained earlier this month over an information leak were released on Tuesday, according to sources.

The three were the last of the detainees to be freed after being taken in for questioning following a raid on the state-run company’s Naypyitaw office on July 6.

The others, including MOGE’s deputy director Aung Soe Min, planning department deputy director Kyaw Kyaw Aung, and finance department deputy director Nu Nu Yi, were released last Friday. At least 20 other assistant directors, supervisors, vice supervisors, and clerks were arrested during the raid.

The detainees released on Tuesday were supervisor Aye Aye San and two male officials, including a retired army major now working as a director at the company.

They are the same staff members known to have been involved in opening secret bank accounts with the aim of accessing dollar-denominated assets frozen by Western sanctions.

According to a source close to senior MOGE officials, it was unclear if junta investigators were able to identify who was responsible for leaking documents seen by Myanmar Now that were related to the creation of the accounts.

“I don’t think they found the mole, but I still don’t know the details,”  said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The episode has raised fears that the regime will intensify its scrutiny of civilian staff in other government departments and state-run enterprises as well. There have already been reports of military officers being sent to several departments to oversee the people working in them.

“These are people who didn’t join the CDM, who are regarded by the public as junta lackeys. Now they are being questioned by a regime that also doesn’t trust them,” said one civil servant, referring to the Civil Disobedience Movement against military rule that emerged in the wake of the February 2021 coup.

Since the European Union imposed sanctions on MOGE in February of last year, more than US$500m held by the company in foreign banks has been frozen, according to a letter sent by the junta’s energy ministry to the Central Bank of Myanmar in April.

The $504m mentioned in the letter, which was leaked to Myanmar Now, represents a fraction of the junta’s revenue from the entire oil and gas industry, which could amount to more than $1.5 billion.

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