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Drug lord-turned-business tycoon once dubbed 'Godfather of Heroin' by US gov't dies in Burma

A former drug kingpin and business tycoon once dubbed the "Godfather of Heroin" by the U.S. government has died in his home in Burma's main city, a source close to the family said Sunday.

Lo Hsing Han died Saturday in Yangon, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have authorization to speak to the media, said, citing a relative of the former drug kingpin. Lo Hsing Han was believed to be in his mid-70s. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Lo Hsing Han's involvement in the drug trade began more than four decades ago.

In exchange for heading a local militia set up by then-dictator Ne Win in 1960 to help fight local communists in the region of Kokang, Lo Hsing Han was given permission to engage in the trafficking of opium and heroin, said Bertil Lintner, author of "The Golden Triangle Opium Trade: An Overview."

With one of the best-armed militias in Burma, also known as Burma, he quickly became one of the region's most powerful drug kingpins.

Thai police arrested Lo Hsing Han in northern Thailand in 1973. He was handed over to the Burmese government and sentenced to death — commuted later to life in prison — for treason.

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

In 1992, Lo Hsing Han and his son Stephen Law founded the conglomerate Asia World, allegedly as a front for their ongoing dealings in the drug trade, the author said.

They quickly became two of Burma's biggest business tycoons, helping prop up the military junta, winning contracts to run ports, build highways and oversee airports.

The U.S. Department of Treasury, dubbing Lo Hsing Han the "Godfather of Heroin," put him on the financial sanctions list in 2008.