Sunday 19 November 2017

Burmese junta wanted to buy Manchester United for $1bn

Christopher Hope in London

Burma's junta tried to buy Manchester United for $1bn (€751m), eight months after a tropical cyclone killed 140,000 of the country's people.

Than Shwe, commander in chief of the armed forces and a fan of the club, was urged to mount a takeover bid by his grandson, according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

The cable disclosed how the regime used football to distract its population from ongoing political and economic problems.

A $1bn bid would have been enough to acquire a 56pc controlling stake in the club. Mr Shwe reportedly decided not to pursue the bid on the grounds that it might "look bad", according to a leaked cable.

The communique, sent in June 2009 to Washington, said: "One well-connected source reports that the grandson wanted Than Shwe to offer $1bn for Manchester United.

"The senior general thought that sort of expenditure could look bad, so he opted to create for Burma a league of its own."

The proposal was made in or before January 2009.

Months earlier, in May 2008, Rangoon had been accused of blocking vital international aid supplies after Cyclone Nargis struck, killing 140,000 people.

In the event, the Burma national football league was launched on May 16, 2009, with Than Shwe's grandson playing for one team, according to another cable.

The dispatch added: "Many Burmese businessmen speculate the regime is using it as a way to distract the populace from ongoing problems."


Meanwhile, a list of facilities around the world whose loss would "critically impact" America's ability to defend itself has been published by WikiLeaks, triggering anger in the US because of fears it could help terrorists identify potential targets for attack.

The document was drawn up by the State Department in February last year, after all of the country's overseas missions were asked to provide a run-down of critical pieces of local infrastructure.

Hundreds of pipelines, communication hubs and manufacturing facilities on several continents are listed, along with some of the planet's largest nuclear and military facilities. Many are in the UK.

While many of the diplomatic documents previously published by the whistle-blowing website were merely embarrassing or inconvenient to the US, the State Department list contains the sort of information considered vital to militant groups.

It includes a cobalt mine in Kinshasa, an insulin plant in Denmark, an anti-snake venom factory in Australia, a Canadian hydroelectric plant which acts as "a critical irreplaceable source of power to portions of northeast US", and a Siemens factory in Germany which is: "irreplaceable" for the "production of key chemicals".

Given that the US sees itself as waging a "global war on terror", the document is among the most explosive published by Wikileaks so far.

John J LeBeau, a former CIA officer, said it "might put ideas into jihadist heads as to what to profitably target". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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