GAB’s December 8 “Kleptocracy Strikes Mongolia? The Batbold Case” prompted dozens of reader comments. The post recounts a recently filed New York civil case where it is alleged that, while he was Prime Minister, Sukhbaatar Batbold worked with a South Korean couple to embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars which went in part to buy real estate in New York and elsewhere registered in the couple’s name. Although the couple appears to have no experience in international commodity markets, they bought large quantities of ore from Mongolian state-owned or controlled mines during Batbold time in office on questionable terms. Batbold’s children now live in or use properties registered to the couple.
Dozens of readers commented on the post, roughly half claiming the charges were fabricated and half saying it was past time to hold Batbold accountable. No one addressed the substance of the allegations however, and hence in a follow up post December 23 readers were invited to do so. To date the one response has been a letter from a Batbold advisor asking GAB to delete the two posts. GAB Editor-in-Chief Matthew Stephenson wrote in reply that while GAB does not remove a post because someone believes it unfair, GAB will correct it if it is inaccurate.
The advisor’s letter contains a blanket denial of wrongdoing by Batbold and a claim the case is politically motivated. It points to no inaccuracies, however. It does note that subsequent to the first post’s appearance the government of Mongolia voluntarily discontinued the case against Batbold. The letter implies this was because the court exonerated him. That is not correct. The court has not ruled on any of Mongolia’s allegations. Likely Mongolia decided to discontinue its case against Batbold for technical reasons having to do with his claim that as a public official he is immune from all court action. In any event, the South Korean couple remain parties.The letter is below.
Dear Mr Messick,
I am an advisor to Batbold Sukhbaatar and I am emailing you in relation to your two posts on the Global Anticorruption Blog, dated 8 and 23 December 2020.
I am copying in the GAB Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Stephenson, as I believe he should be fully informed.
What is concerning is that you have written both posts in a manner that only be described politely as one-sided and void of factual accuracy. The post of 23 December quotes from a poorly-researched article in The Times, which relied on initial filings from the case in NYC that had already found in favor of Mr Batbold. This is not mentioned at all in your blog.
Your reporting of the London case, as taken from The Times without any analysis or attempt to contact us, focuses entirely on the judgment of His Honour Judge Pelling QC. Neither The Times article nor your post make it clear that this was a judgment which followed an ex-parte interim hearing during which, by definition, Mr Batbold had no opportunity to participate in the process. Had he been able to do so, it would have been made clear to Judge Pelling that Mr Batbold does not own the apartment in question and has no interest in it, directly or indirectly. Mr Batbold has submitted an affidavit to the London court confirming that he has no assets in this jurisdiction.
By way of background, spurious applications of this nature have been made against Mr Batbold on an ex-parte basis in several jurisdictions. The circumstances in which these claims have been brought are extremely irregular. The three claimants in the London proceedings have confirmed to Mr Batbold, in no uncertain terms, that they have not requested representation or authorized or approved of any proceedings in local courts or abroad against him. The Chief of the Cabinet Secretary of Mongolia has also confirmed the same by letter.
It appears that this campaign of litigation against Mr Batbold is politically motivated. This is particularly the case in view of the fact that Mr Batbold is considered as a potential candidate to run against the current President, Mr Battulga, in the coming Presidential elections in Mongolia next year. It would be unfortunate if the GAB was used unwittingly to further a political campaign designed to smear Mr Batbold and affect the results of next year’s democratic Presidential elections in Mongolia.
New York is the only jurisdiction in which Mr Batbold has had the opportunity to oppose such an application and the New York court ruled in his favor – again not reflected in your posts. The judge lifted the freezing order and injunction, and the underlying claims against Mr Batbold were dropped following receipt of his submissions and a hearing during which the New York court expressed serious concern with the manner in which the plaintiffs pursued the case.
The claims against Mr Batbold were withdrawn was public knowledge as of 9 December, 2020 and I am interested to know why you haven’t reported this?
Mr Batbold has not received any misappropriated funds through kickbacks, and the Mongolian government is not seeking $250 million in damages from him as alleged. You have adopted a one-sided approach. This accusation is based on statements made against Mr Batbold in an affidavit by Jules Kroll, the chairman and co-founder of K2 Intelligence, of 15 November 2020. K2 is a commercial investigator working for their client(s) in Mongolia. It is to be hoped that K2’s payment complies with the country’s public procurement rules – in any event, they cannot be regarded as an independent or objective source.
The allegations made in the Kroll affidavit have not been tested in court. On their face they are speculative, and the affidavit is riddled with inconsistencies. The alleged $250 million in “damages”, according to the affidavit, is apparently based on $232 million in alleged tax breaks that were never given by Mr Batbold and are fictitious.
You have failed to set out the context in which the claims in the affidavit were made. Your posts do not by any measure represent fair and accurate reporting.
As you will be aware, there has been considerable international criticism of the rule of law in Mongolia under the current President, not least from the European Commission.
Mr Batbold has not been given access to any court documents in Mongolia, except a summons, relating to this alleged case against him. Given that the current President, Mr Batbold’s potential opponent in next year’s election, personally nominated and appointed the General Prosecutor, nominated the head of the Independent Anti- Corruption Agency and appointed the Chief of the Supreme Court in Mongolia, this is particularly worrying.
Given all the above I would ask that you take down the posts. We’re also forced to ask, why you have not chosen to establish and to report the full facts?
You can tell from my content and tone that Mr Batbold is dismayed and upset by your posts. Please can you let me have your response. Thank you.