Will Mongolia’s Presidential Election Put Batbold and Foreign Ownership of the Oyu Tolgoi Mine at Risk?

U. Khürelsükh is the odds-on favorite to win Mongolia’s June 9 Presidential election after an irregular ruling by the Supreme Court denied incumbent President K. Battulga his constitutional right to run for re-election.  Initial predictions were that the election of Khürelsükh, the former Prime Minister and current chair of the Mongolian People’s Party (MPP), would end the investigation into whether corruption infected the deal Mongolia struck with foreign investors on the Oyu Tolgoi mining project, Mongolia’s ticket to economic prosperity. 

The reasoning was that any investigation would implicate former MPP Prime Minister S. Batbold and other senior MPP members.  As this blog has reported (here, here, and here), the evidence of Batbold’s corrupt dealings with the foreign investors in the project, Australian mining giant Rio Tinto and controversial U.S.-Canadian entrepreneur Robert Friedland, seems strong and Batbold’s denials unconvincing.  But the expectation was that the MPP, the lineal descendant of the Marxist-Leninist party that ran the country when it was an appendage of the Soviet Union, still observed the principle of “democratic centralism.” Or as Benjamin Franklin put the principle more colorfully when signing one the foundational documents of true democracy, “We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”  

The assumption that MPP members would hang together is now at risk thanks to what Khürelsükh said last week on Mongolian TV9’s interview program.

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Kleptocracy Strikes Mongolia? Further Reply from Batbold’s Advisor

Faithful readers know that last December 8 GAB reported on a New York case alleging that while in office former Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold conspired with a South Korean couple to embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars from his government.  Brought by three Mongolian government agencies, the complaint seeks to prevent the sale of two New York condominiums the agencies say are registered in the couple’s name but beneficially owned by Batbold until a case in Mongolia is resolved. In that case, the three agencies plus the Metropolitan Prosecutor’s Office ask that Batbold, the Korean couple, and others compensate the government for the damages it suffered from their corrupt acts.

The December 8 post and a second one December 23 drew a considerable number of comments. About half said the charges were fabricated and half said it was about time Batbold was held accountable.  But none addressed the facts alleged. It was only on January 5 GAB received any substantive comment on the charges — in the form of a letter from Batbold advisor Batbayar Sh. He there denied Batbold had done anything wrong, asserted the Mongolian case was politically motivated, and asked that the posts be taken down. Although Batbayar claimed the two posts were riddled with errors, as GAB explained in its January 6 post reprinting his letter, he identified no inaccuracies in either the December 8 or December 23 post.

Batbayar has now sent a second letter. It again denies Batbold has done anything wrong and, unlike the earlier letter, adds some facts to back up the denial. The text of this second letter along with GAB’s comments on the points it raises follows.

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Kleptocracy Strikes Mongolia? The Batbold Case Part II — UPDATE

There is little doubt GAB’s Mongolian readers feel strongly about their former Prime Minister and possible 2021 presidential candidate Batbold Sukhbaatar. A December 8 post summarizing Offshore Alert’s December 7 revelations of charges he masterminded a massive corruption scheme sparked an avalanche of comments.  By contrast an earlier post recounting charges his likely rival, the current president, was corruption and had abused of power to control judicial appointments drew nary a word.

Comments on the Batbold case split roughly 50-50.  Half claimed the charges were fabricated with several seeing unnamed “foreign interests” behind them, and half believed every word of the government’s case and hoped Batbold would soon be brought to justice. Unfortunately for GAB readers neither from Mongolia nor schooled in developments there, none of the commentary offered any facts in support of their passionately asserted views.  Indeed, the only fact about the case that has appeared since the Offshore Alert article, at least in the English language press, is a story in today’s Times of London.

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