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U.S. Blocks Myanmar Junta Attempt to Empty $1bn Fed Account

International desk || shiningbd

Published: 12:04, 5 March 2021   Update: 12:05, 5 March 2021
U.S. Blocks Myanmar Junta Attempt to Empty $1bn Fed Account

Myanmar's military rulers attempted to move about $1 billion held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York days after seizing power on Feb 1, prompting US officials to put a freeze on the funds, according to three people familiar with the matter, including one US government official.

The transaction on Feb 4 in the name of the Central Bank of Myanmar was first blocked by Fed safeguards. US government officials then stalled on approving the transfer until an executive order issued by President Joe Biden gave them legal authority to block it indefinitely, the sources said.

A spokesman for the New York Fed declined to comment on specific account holders. The US Treasury Department also declined to comment.

The attempt, which has not been previously reported, came after Myanmar's military-installed a new central bank governor and detained reformist officials during the coup.

It marked an apparent effort by Myanmar's generals to limit exposure to international sanctions after they arrested elected officials, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had won a national election in November. The army seized power alleging fraud, claims that the electoral commission has dismissed.

A spokesman for Myanmar's military government did not answer repeated calls seeking comment. Reuters was unable to reach officials at the central bank.

The United States, Canada, the European Union, and Britain have all issued fresh sanctions following the coup and the army's subsequent deadly crackdown on demonstrators. The United Nations said on Thursday that at least 54 people have been killed since the coup. More than 1,700 people had been arrested, including 29 journalists.