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Lo Hsing Han, ‘Godfather of Heroin,’ dies at 80

Lo Hsing Han, drug lord-turned-business tycoon, was dubbed the "Godfather of Heroin" by the U.S. government. Media outlets reported that he died July 6 in the city of Yangon. (Khin Maung Win/AP)

Lo Hsing Han, who was dubbed the “Godfather of Heroin” by the U.S. government and slapped with financial sanctions for allegedly helping prop up Burma’s brutal former military junta through illegal business dealings, has died. He was 80.

Media outlets reported that he died July 6 in Rangoon, Burma’s largest city. The cause could not immediately be determined.

For decades, Lo Hsing Han was considered one of the world’s biggest traffickers of heroin. In the 1990s, he and his son Stephen Law founded the conglomerate Asia World, allegedly as a front for their ongoing drug dealings, said Bertil Lintner, author of “The Golden Triangle Opium Trade: An Overview.”

They quickly became two of the most powerful business tycoons in Burma, also known as Myanmar. They won contracts from the junta to run ports, build highways and oversee airport operations.

The U.S. Treasury Department put both father and son on its financial sanctions list in 2008.

Lo Hsing Han first got involved in the drug trade in the 1960s.

In exchange for heading a local militia set up by then-dictator Ne Win to help fight communists in the region of Kokang, he was granted the right to traffic opium and heroin, Lintner said.

Thai police arrested Lo Hsing Han in northern Thailand in 1973. He was handed over to the Burmese government. His initial sentence of death — for treason, not drug trafficking — was commuted to life in prison. His conviction stemmed from a brief stint with the insurgent Shan State Army, Lintner said.

He was released as part of a general amnesty in 1980.

Survivors include his wife; eight children; and 16 grandchildren.

— Associated Press

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