Businessman’s Son Takes Sanctions Case to Court of Justice – The Irrawaddy


Pye Phyo Tay Za, the son of Tay Za, a businessman with close links to Burma’s military government, is appealing a decision taken earlier this year which maintains European Union (EU) financial sanctions and travel ban against him.

The case is now before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg, which is the highest court in the EU in terms of EU law, and pits Pye Phyo against the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the United Kingdom.

On May 19, Pye Phyo Tay Za lost a legal bid at the General Court to have EU sanctions overturned. He was ordered to pay the court costs for the Council of the EU. He is seeking that the entire May 19 decision be overturned, that the sanctions regulations be rendered null and void in his case, and that the Council foot the bill for this appeal and for the previous case.

Pye Phyo’s legal team is challenging the May 19 decision on a number of grounds pertaining to what it terms “particular legal flaws in the General Court’s judgment.” His lawyers and solicitors are again focusing on “the link between the Appellant and the military regime of Burma/Myanmar.”

The appeal was lodged on July 27, and details were published in the EU official journal on Sept. 25. It says that Pye Phyo “is not a ruler of Burma/Myanmar, nor a person associated with a ruler, and is not controlled, directly or indirectly, by a ruler. The fact that he is the son of someone whom the Council considers to have benefited from the regime is insufficient.”

This echoes the case made at the General Court, in which Pye Phyo argued that he is neither a member of Burma’s military government nor associated with it, and does not benefit from “the administration of that government.”

However, in the original General Court case, it was claimed that “neither the applicant [Pye Phyo] nor his father received any benefits from the regime.” However, it now appears that the Court of Justice appeal will not go so far as to question whether Tay Za is “someone whom the Council considers to have benefited from the regime.”

In defending the General Court case to have sanctions against Pye Phyo retained, the Council said that the appeal could be a way for Tay Za to circumvent the sanctions against himself. The Council stated: “The applicant was aware of the reasons for which such restrictive measures specifically apply to him, since he states in paragraph 37 of the originating application that there may be a risk of his father circumventing the freeze on his own assets by transferring his funds to other family members.”

Tay Za owns the Htoo Group of Companies, which has stakes in major economic sectors in the country such as logging, tourism, hotels, airlines, transport and construction. He also owns Air Bagan, which dominates domestic air travel inside Burma.

In early September, The Irrawaddy received information from junta officials that most of the telecommunication services of the Ministry of Communications, Posts and Telegraphs in Burma will be taken over by the Htoo Group. Tay Za is among a group of four businessmen who will be allowed to open new private banks in Burma ahead of the Nov. 7 general election. The quadrumvirate run conglomerates and are considered top beneficiaries of a wave of privatization in which about 300 state assets, including everything from real estate to ports, shipping companies and an airline were sold amid growing Chinese, Indian, Thai and Singaporean investment in the military-run country.

Tay Za has worked side-by-side with Aung Thet Mann, the son of ex-Gen Shwe Mann, who is the third-ranked figure in the ruling junta and a possible president of the country after the November elections.

The upcoming election is expected to be dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the National Unity Party (NUP), two junta-linked parties who will contest most or all of the 1,096 constituencies across the country at regional, lower and upper house levels. A number of businessmen close to the military government will run as election candidates for the USDP.

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