The jade trade in Burma "may well be the biggest natural resource heist in modern history," according to a report published Friday by an international anti-corruption organization. That organization, Global Witness, puts the value of the jade produced in 2014 in Burma at at least $31 billion—more than half of the country's GDP, the New York Times reports. Unfortunately, very little of that money ends up in the hands of Burma citizens, who are some of the poorest in the world. According to the ABC, Global Witness states 50% to 80% of Burma's jade is smuggled out of the country and into China, where the Times reports the growing middle class has a high desire for it.
According to the Times, Global Witness claims the profits from the jade trade work their way through fake companies with fake owners to the pockets of military leaders, politicians, and the family of the country's former dictator, whose sons control two mining companies. Burma's military also owns two companies and uses the profits to battle rebel groups fighting for independence and control of the jade supply. Global Witness states jade mining is leading to wars, heroin abuse, prostitution, and rising HIV rates. According to the ABC, one local calls her jade-rich state "hell on Earth." The Times reports Global Witness wants Obama to work with Burma to change the jade trade so its profits actually improve the lives of its citizens. (Read more Myanmar stories.)