Military-linked companies procured USD millions in arms and military equipment

February 7, 2022

Recently leaked documents and shipping records provide evidence of the involvement of the International Gateways Group of Companies Limited (IGG), Myanmar Consultancy Company Limited (MCC) and Myanmar New Era Trading Company in arms procurement for the Myanmar military worth millions in US dollars.

These companies are controlled by a small group of individuals linked to the Myanmar military, with a long history of supplying arms and other military equipment.

Evidence of procurement for the Myanmar military

A leaked document shows that a subsidiary of IGG – Gateways Hongkong Company Limited – was awarded at least 12 contracts to supply equipment to the Myanmar military in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

These contracts amounted to a total value of over USD$8 million and involved spare parts and upgrades for the air force’s fighter jets and other aircraft.

The leaked document provides details of the military equipment purchased under those contracts by the Ministry of Defence, decided at a procurement committee meeting.

Although Gateways Hongkong Company Limited has offices in China and Myanmar as well, all of these purchases were made through its Hong Kong office.

Another leaked document from the Ministry of Defence details five purchases of components for aircraft and weapons for warships between 2016 and 2017, totalling over USD$3.7 million.

This leaked document provided details of ‘sanction carry over’ purchases from the fiscal year 2016-2017 to 2017-2018, which is likely to indicate that the purchases and payments were made in separate fiscal years.

Again, Gateways Hongkong Company Limited is named as the company involved in these purchases on behalf of the air force and navy.

Most of the components listed in these two leaked documents are typically produced in Russia or China, likely to have originated from the defence industries of those countries. Others are components for aircraft manufactured by the French-Italian corporation ATR and the US corporation Cessna. However, the specific sources from which they were actually purchased could not be confirmed.

Further leaked documents provide other forms of evidence of Gateways Hongkong Company Limited’s involvement in procuring equipment for the military.

A leaked proposal from Gateways Hongkong Company Limited to the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Air Force offers a refurbishment of an Mi-8MSB medium class utility/transport helicopter in October 2019.

In another leaked document in the same month and year, Gateways Hongkong Company Limited provides a technical description for a DT-200 anti-drone and electronic warfare system for the air force.

A leaked letter from August 2017 concerns a planned meeting between Myanmar Air Force officials, the army's Directorate of Procurement and Gateways Hongkong Company Limited to discuss the procurement of ATR-72-500 aircraft. In October of the same year, a second leaked letter concerns a follow up meeting between the air force, Directorate of Procurement and Gateways Hongkong to draw up contracts for the purchase of ATR 72-500s.

ATR aircraft are produced in France and Italy.

Since the Myanmar military’s illegal attempted coup, MCC – Myanmar Consultancy Company Limited has procured equipment from ALLWE, a Russian trading company that specialises in the supply of aircraft parts and related equipment for Mi-8/Mi-17 helicopters.

In April 2021, ALLWE exported fuses, transistors, switches, a compass and other parts to Myanmar Consultancy Company, according to records from the trade international database, ImportGenius.

Myanmar Consultancy Company was an online exhibitor at the MAKS 2021 air show in Russia, which Senior General Min Aung Hlaing attended in person.

This follows evidence of earlier military procurement activities. In a leaked document from May 2015, MCC provided a technical proposal for a programmable drone (PRM-200) to the Myanmar Air Force through a Serbian state-owned defence company, Yugoimport-SDPR J.P.

Another leaked letter in November the same year shows MCC proposing supply of guided cluster bombs for A-5IIK aircraft to the office of the Commander-in-Chief of the air force. An extract of the proposal states that the project would be completed via Poly Technology, a company in the arms industry owned by China Poly Group.

Cluster bombs are prohibited under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, although neither Myanmar nor China are signatories.

A previous investigation by Justice For Myanmar have also revealed that MCC received regular shipments of military equipment between 2016 and 2020, including aircraft parts and engines from Ukrainian company, Motor Sich and radars from Indian company, Bharat Electronics.

JFM also previously revealed a technical proposal from MCC to the Commander-in-Chief of the air force in 2019, containing details of a CN 235 – 220 M military transport aircraft.  

In addition, data from the global trade database, Import Genius, reveals trade in military equipment by the Myanmar New Era Trading Company.

The data reveals 83 shipments of parts for Mi-17 (Mi-8M) helicopters from Russia between 2017 and 2020 from the Novosibirsk-based company, Aviatechexport Ltd.

The import database states that the parts are for non-military use, but this claim is doubtful because the same model of helicopter has been used for troop transport and surveillance during the 2017 genocide against the Rohingya, also reportedly used in indiscriminate air strikes.

In November 2021, amidst the aftermath of the attempted coup, the Myanmar military used helicopters and heavy artillery during fighting in the Saw Township, Magway area and used the Mi-17 helicopter specifically to transport troops.

The companies and the individuals in control

Eighteen people – at least four of whom are family members – fill the roles of directors and shareholders of these military-linked companies, in what appears to be a revolving-door manner.

Among them, Dr Naing Htut Aung may be one of the most prolific arms dealers for the Myanmar military.

According to a source with knowledge of the arms trade, Dr Naing Htut Aung plays a major role in facilitating air force and navy contracts with suppliers in China and elsewhere.

He is closely linked to the top-level military leaders, including current Commander-in-Chief and war criminal, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Dr Naing Htut Aung has purchased weapons systems, spare parts and upgrades on behalf of the Myanmar military over many years. Under the former military junta, Dr Naing Htut Aung was a key arms broker for the military junta who imported equipment for the navy and air force through his international network.

Dr. Naing Htut Aung and his wife Wai Wai Yin established the Myanmar-based businesses, International Gateways Group of Companies Limited (IGG) and Myanmar Consultancy Company Limited (MCC).

They were joined by Aung Myo Win and Kyin Win as co-owners and since then, these two business entities and their subsidiaries have shared the same office and many of the same directors and shareholders, including Chan Maung and Aung Myint.

Among them, Aung Myo Win and Kyin Win are also directors and shareholders of the Myanmar New Era Trading Company.

These individuals established a network of businesses in Singapore. Myanmar arms brokers typically use Singapore to facilitate payments between the Myanmar military and international arms suppliers.

Some of Naing Htut Aung's Singapore-based businesses have the same or similar names to global arms suppliers. These include Ukrspetsexport Pte. Ltd., struck off in November 2021, Poly Aviation Technologies Pte. Ltd., struck off in 2014, and Xinshidai Company Pte. Ltd., which is currently active.

Ukrspetsexport is also the name of a Ukrainian state arms manufacturer which is a key supplier of the Myanmar military. Poly Aviation Technology is part of the Chinese state arms manufacturer China Poly Group. China Xinshidai Company is a Chinese state arms company, currently subject to US Export Administration Regulations. In Chinese, Xinshidai means "new era", which is also the name of the Myanmar registered arms supplier, New Era Trading. Justice For Myanmar could not identify links between these businesses and the international arms manufacturers they appear to reference.

In 2019, the United Nations’ Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (IIFFMM) identified Dr. Naing Htut Aung and Wai Wai Yin as the owners of the IGG and MCC. In 2020, following this public exposure, some changes were made: this husband and wife were no longer directors and shareholders of MCC, and Aung Myo Win and Kyi Win were no longer directors and shareholders of IGG. The office location of the two companies was also changed.

Following Justice For Myanmar's investigation of Myanmar Consultancy Company's arms procurement activities, published on September 8, 2021, changes of director and shareholder were also made. On September 9, Zin Myint Maung and Min Nyi Aye left the board and Min Nyi Aye disposed of his shares. On October 27, Kyin Win and Aung Myo Win also left the company.

In the reshuffle, Kyaw Soe and Than Lwin joined the Myanmar Consultancy Company board and are the sole shareholders in the company. Than Lwin is managing director of Yatanarpon Aviation Support Company Limited, which Justice For Myanmar has previously named for importing aviation parts since the attempted coup.

Yatanarpon Aviation was formerly a company of Sit Tain Aung, Mexico's honorary consul to Myanmar. Sit Taing Aung denied links to the Myanmar military in correspondence with Justice For Myanmar, and left the company days after it was named by Justice For Myanmar (he officially left on September 3, but effective from September 17).

Sit Taing Aung is the son of Aung Phone, the forestry minister under Myanmar’s previous junta, the State Peace and Development Council. Sit Taing Aung’s Suntac group of companies was previously subject to EU sanctions for its links to the military junta.

Myanmar Consultancy Company and Yatanarpon Aviation continue to be located at the same address. Myanmar Consultancy Company, Yatanarpon Aviation and Myanmar New Era Trading share the same phone number.

Supporting the military and genocide

These companies are not only involved in arms trading. The IGG has a well-documented history of providing financial support for the Myanmar military’s genocide against the Rohingya.

In September 2017, IGG donated 633.8 million kyat to the Myanmar military, in support of “clearance operations” against the Rohingya.

Another donation from IGG to the Myanmar military was made on Armed Forces Day, March 27, 2019, according to the IIFFMM.

Back in 2013, IGG donated 100.8 million kyat to Senior General Min Aung Hlaing “for the development of Rakhine State”. That year, IGG appears to be the largest donor to the military following a wave of atrocities against the Rohingya.

Justice For Myanmar calls for governments to place sanctions on the companies and individuals in this article, as well as their subsidiaries and related companies and their directors and shareholders, in response to their roles in, or business connections to, the supply of arms and military equipment to the Myanmar military. Justice For Myanmar calls on Singapore to end the use of its territory as a financial hub for Myanmar military procurement.

Explore the evidence

Spreadsheet with details of the companies and their directors and shareholders for targeted sanctions: Download Excel (19 kb)

Extract from a leaked Ministry of Defence concerning procurement for the 2015-16 financial year (reformatted and translated): Download PDF (151 kb)

Extract from a leaked Ministry of Defence concerning procurement for the 2016-17 financial year (reformatted and translated): Download PDF (138 kb)

Gateways Hongkong technical proposal for Mi-8MSB refurbishment: Download PDF (2.81 mb)

Myanmar Air Force letter concerning a meeting with Gateways Hongkong regarding ATR 72-500s (August 18, 2017): Download PDF (67 kb)

Myanmar Air Force letter concerning a meeting with Gateways Hongkong regarding ATR 72-500s (October 23, 2017): Download PDF (67 kb)

Myanmar Consultancy Company proposal letter to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Air) for a PRM-200 drone: Download PDF (1.43 mb)

Myanmar Consultancy Company proposal letter to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Air) for A-511K bombs: Download PDF (623 kb)

Extract of Myanmar Consultancy Company proposal for A-511-K bombs: Download PDF (77 kb)