Italian Steel Plant Maker Danieli Facing OECD Complaint for Aiding the Junta’s Steel Industry 

A June 1, 2023, article in the junta-run Myanmar daily news publication Myawady shows a photo of three “foreign experts” from Danieli accepting a fruit basket from military dictator Min Aung Hlaing. Danieli is an Italian steel plant and machine producer that helped restart Myanmar’s flagship steel mills, which have ties to weapons manufacturers and U.S.- and EU-sanctioned entities. Source: Myawady, June 1, 2023.

Hunterbrook Media’s investment affiliate, Hunterbrook Capital, did not take any positions related to this article.

Italian company Danieli & C. S.p.A. (BIT: $DANR), or Danieli Group — a global steel plant and machine manufacturer — has been involved in restarting junta-owned steel mills in Myanmar with links to arms manufacturers, according to investigations by Myanmar Now, as well as trade records, interviews, documents, and satellite imagery collected by Hunterbrook Media.

Danieli’s collaboration with the military on the Myingyan steel mill dates back at least to the opening ceremony of the plant in 2010, where Danieli officials were present. The plant was shuttered in 2017 by the then-civilian government due to unprofitability, but was later recommissioned — again with Danieli’s help — by the junta after it retook power in 2021. 

On June 1, 2023, an article with a photo of Danieli staff accepting a gift from junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing at the plant appeared on a junta-controlled news site, Myawady. An online English version of the Myawady article is available here, although it does not contain the photo of Danieli officials. The photo is also available on the Myanmar Ministry of Industry website and from the Myanmar National Post news service. The article describes the Danieli staff as “foreign experts serving at the plant.”

A Myanmar Ministry of Industry report dated November 2021 says the Myingyan steel mill was “established with the cooperation of Danieli Company (utilizing Italian technology).”

Danieli’s production unit in India shipped parts for metal rolling mills to Myanmar as late as October 3, 2023, according to commercial trade records acquired from a third-party provider.

Video footage inside the Myingyan plant posted on YouTube in April 2023 prominently shows several pieces of equipment bearing the Danieli label. Hunterbrook Media was able to geolocate the footage to the steel mill, matching the shape of the building and other features seen in multiple shots.

Danieli has also been involved in the commissioning of another steel mill in Myanmar, the Pinpet steel mill — a crude iron processing plant jointly owned by the junta and VO Tyazhpromexport, a subsidiary of the U.S.- and EU-sanctioned Russian arms supplier State Corp. Rostec.

A Myawady report dated November 15, 2023, discusses remaining work to be done in accordance with the “Danieli Co., Ltd. Technical Report” to restart the Pinpet mill. 

A map of the facility retrieved from a Myanmar government website by a local human rights watchdog, Pa-O Youth Organization, highlights an “Italian office” — a reference that very likely refers to Danieli, according to Cecilia Brighi, general secretary of Italian watchdog Italia-Birmania.Insieme. 

The plant has faced strong opposition from the local population because of the severity of the alleged environmental damage and human rights violations it has caused. 

In December 2023, Italia-Birmania.Insieme, along with unions and civil groups in Italy and Myanmar, including the Pa-O Youth Organization, filed a complaint with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Point of Contact against Danieli for its alleged due diligence failures that violate OECD Guidelines, according to Myanmar Now.

According to a report by the Italian NGO, Danieli has always “maintained a strategy of ‘secrecy’ regarding its activities in Myanmar.” For example, Danieli has omitted Myanmar from the countries of operation listed on its website or in its latest annual report, despite registering — months after the coup — its Myanmar branch with the Myanmar Directorate of Investment and Company Administration. DICA company search:

The company’s CEO, Giacomo Mareschi Danieli, who was present at the Myingyan plant’s opening ceremony in 2010, was listed as one of its directors in the registry, according to a Myanmar Now article. Since that article appeared, however, Danieli deregistered its Myanmar branch from the Myanmar corporate registry.

Achieving self-sufficiency in raw material supply — including steel — for domestic weapons production has long been a key goal for the Myanmar military. Both steel plants are linked to multiple arms suppliers — including Sky Aviator Co. Ltd., a Myanmar arms broker sanctioned by the U.S. — as Hunterbrook has documented in a separate report.

Danieli’s activities in Myanmar may violate EU sanctions, unless it has obtained exemptions from Italian authorities to continue operations in Myanmar, said Brighi. EU sanctions ban the transfer of equipment or technical assistance for military activities to any persons or entity in Myanmar, including furnaces and other machines used in steelmaking that Danieli may have installed at the Myingyan plant, based on the YouTube video.

“You cannot help a country make steel and say that steel is only going to be used for kitchen appliances,” said Brighi. “You can’t guarantee that that steel won’t be used for weapons.” 

Danieli did not respond to Hunterbrook’s request for comments.

In March 2021, the EU also imposed sanctions on the Myanmar Economic Corp., a military holding company that has been involved in commissioning the Myingyan plant. EU sanctions against the MEC prohibit any EU company from providing any economic services to the MEC. The MEC transferred its ownership of the Myingyan plant to the Ministry of Industry in 2012, but MEC Chairman Lt. Gen. Nyo Saw — also designated by EU sanctions — briefed the junta leader on the progress in the repair work at the Myingyan plant in 2023, according to junta-controlled media.

Nyo Saw concurrently served as the head of the military’s Quartermaster General’s Office — an agency responsible for procurements, including bullets and artillery used against civilians since the coup.

Brighi believes the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been reluctant to enforce EU sanctions on Danieli, in part because Danieli is a “huge company.” The responsibility to enforce EU sanctions falls on member states, whose enforcement efforts have been uneven.  Brighi has heard, however, that Danieli was contacted by the prime minister’s office last fall and told to cease operations in Myanmar. “It was embarrassing for the prime minister’s office,” Brighi claimed. “Danieli agreed, but we’re still concerned that Danieli might send experts there.”

Blake Spendley joined Hunterbrook from the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), where he led investigations as a Research Specialist for the Marine Corps and US Navy. He built and owns the leading open-source intelligence (OSINT) account on X/Twitter, called @OSINTTechnical (>900K followers), which now distributes Hunterbrook Media content. His OSINT research has been published in Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, among other top business outlets. He has a BA in Political Science from USC.

Daniel Sherwood joined Hunterbrook from The Capitol Forum, a premium subscription financial publication, where he was an Editor & Senior Correspondent, writing and managing market-moving investigative reports and building the Upstream database. Prior to The Capitol Forum, Daniel has experience conducting undercover investigations into fossil fuel companies and other research. He also served as an Honors Law Clerk in the Criminal Enforcement Division of the EPA. He has a JD from Michigan State University. Daniel is based in Michigan.

Jenny Ahn is a geopolitical expert with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific and has diverse overseas experience. She has an MA in International Affairs from Yale and a BS in International Relations from Stanford. Jenny is based in Virginia.


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