Located in a border town in Myanmar, the Yatai City project is falsely described as an industrial and entertainment complex under China’s Belt and Road initiative
A Caixin investigation examining court papers and public documents has uncovered the shady business history of a high-profile investment project in Myanmar was backed by a reclusive Chinese businessman who has done business under at least four names and has faced allegations of being connected to illegal gambling operations.
At the center of the controversy is an ambitious $15 billion project called Yatai City that aims to turn a quiet Myanmar border village into a Singapore-like business hub, according to public information. The main architect of what’s also known as the Myanmar Yatai Shwe Kokko Special Economic Zone is a 38-year-old expatriate Chinese businessman who goes by the name She Kailun and three others, based on Caixin reporting.
His Yatai City is a massive commercial project located in a small town on the Moei River in Kayin State, bordering Thailand. Developed by Hong Kong-registered Yatai International since 2017, the project is planned to cover 12,000 hectares. Yatai City is billed as an industrial and entertainment complex that will accommodate a vast range of services including tourism, commerce, logistics, finance and technology development, described as part of the China, Thailand and Myanmar Economic Corridor regional development plan and a model project under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative.
But in reality, Yatai City has nothing to do with the government-backed Belt and Road Initiative and doesn’t involve any direct investment from China, according to China’s embassy in Myanmar. The Chinese government has never allowed domestic investors to participate in overseas gambling projects, the embassy said.
Since 2019, local media outlets and NGOs in Myanmar published a series of reports questioning Yatai City’s business operations. In July, the CFOCE removed She as vice chairman and revoked his membership amid the investigation of Yatai City.
A Caixin visit to Yatai International’s office in downtown Beijing in late September found an empty room. The manager of the building said the office was vacant for nearly three weeks, but the lease was still valid.
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