ANZ will become first international bank to withdraw from Myanmar

23 November 2022
ANZ will become first international bank to withdraw from Myanmar
A man stands near Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) automatic teller machines (ATMs) in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 16 December 2019. Photo: EPA

The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) said it will withdraw from Myanmar by early 2023, making it the first international bank to withdraw from the country.

The withdrawal follows the October 2022 blacklisting of Myanmar by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.

In a statement ANZ said: “Due to increasing operational complexity over the past several months, the Bank has been working with its Institutional customers to transition to alternative banking arrangements. “

ANZ Managing Director, International, Simon Ireland said: “The decision follows careful consideration of the local operating conditions. We thank the team for working tirelessly to support our customers during this time.

“Our international network and supporting the trade and capital flows of our customers around the region is a critical part of our strategy, and will continue to be for the long term,” Mr Ireland said.

According to ANZ it has operated in Myanmar since 2015, and had a small local team focused on supporting the onshore and cross-border needs of multinational companies, which included services such as facilitating payroll.

According to the campaign group Justice for Myanmar Australia’s ANZ was one of the first international banks to receive a licence from the Central Bank of Myanmar, winning approval in 2014, under the military’s proxy government.

Since US, UK, EU and Canada sanctioned Innwa Bank in March 2021, the Hong Kong-based insurance corporation AIA has used ANZ to transfer funds to Innwa Bank accounts. Records show transactions in August and September 2021.

The Malaysian mobile network tower company Edotco also used ANZ for transactions to Innwa Bank accounts in April and June 2021. Edotco leases towers to Mytel, a mobile operator partly owned by Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a holding company that owns businesses, that generate revenue for the military, including Innwa Bank. MEC was also sanctioned by the the US, UK, EU and Canada following the coup.

According to Justice for Myanmar, ANZ’s transactions with Innwa Bank took place amid a sanctions void in Australia, with the government failing to impose any sanctions in response to the military’s coup.

Military conglomerates MEC and Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) remain unsanctioned in Australia, despite being sanctioned by the US, UK, EU and Canada.

Justice For Myanmar previously wrote to ANZ regarding its transactions with Innwa Bank. A spokesperson responded, “We are monitoring the situation in Myanmar closely and our priority is ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our staff. ANZ must comply with all applicable laws in all of the jurisdictions in which it operates, including requirements of supra-national organisations, such as the United Nations and European Union.”

Justice For Myanmar also asked ANZ whether it transacted with MWD, a bank owned by MEHL. ANZ did not provide a response.

Regarding ANZ’s withdrawal from Myanmar Justice For Myanmar spokesperson Yadanar Maung said: “We cautiously welcome ANZ’s decision to leave Myanmar and call on them to responsibly exit.

“This must involve mitigating and remedying the impact on their staff and ensuring that they repatriate all funds so they do not leave a windfall for the terrorist military junta.

“Since the military’s illegal attempted coup, ANZ has transacted with the US, UK and EU sanctioned Innwa Bank and facilitated customer payments to the military junta, enabled by the refusal of the Australian government to sanction the junta and its businesses.

"The Australian government's appalling inaction in response to the crisis in Myanmar undermines its democratic values and international obligations.

“We call on the Australian government to support the people of Myanmar and take a clear stand for democracy and human rights by sanctioning the illegal junta and its businesses.

“ANZ is the first international bank to leave Myanmar and their planned exit is another sign of the destruction the junta is causing to Myanmar’s economy through the military’s coup attempt, war of terror and proliferation of illicit business activities under control of or profiting the military and its associates.