YANGON, Myanmar — A former drug kingpin and business tycoon once dubbed the ‘‘godfather of heroin’’ by the US government has died in his home in Myanmar’s main city, a source close to the family said Sunday.
Lo Hsing Han died Saturday in Yangon, the source said, citing a relative of the former drug kingpin.
He was 80. The cause of death was not immediately known.
His body lay in a glass coffin in the family home for a private ceremony Monday, a long line of relatives, senior government officials and business leaders turning out to pay their final respects, one of the attendees told the Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect to the family.
In exchange for heading a local militia set up by then-dictator Ne Win in the 1960s 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 Myanmar, also known as Burma, he quickly became one of the region’s most powerful drug kingpins.
Thai police arrested him 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, he 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 Myanmar’s biggest business tycoons, helping prop up the military junta, winning contracts to run ports, build highways, and oversee airports.
The US Department of Treasury, dubbing Lo Hsing Han the ‘‘Godfather of Heroin,’’ put both father and son on the financial sanctions list in 2008.
He leaves his wife, four sons, four daughters, and 16 grandchildren.