US federal prosecutors seek seizure of assets linked to former Mongolia PM News, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
US federal prosecutors seek seizure of assets linked to former Mongolia PM

US federal prosecutors filed a complaint in a New York federal district court Wednesday seeking the forfeiture of two multimillion-dollar Manhattan apartments purchased by former Mongolian Prime Minister Sukhbaatar Batbold in connection to an alleged money laundering and corruption investigation.

The investigation centers around contracts the Erdenet Mining Corporation, a state owned mining company, entered into with Catrison Limited, a middleman, which theoretically would sell Erdenet’s products on the open market. Erdenet is controlled by the Mongolian State Property Committee which reports directly to the Mongolian prime minister.  While historically Erdenet had sold copper concentrates directly to established commodities tradings firms the company entered into a $68 million contract with Catrison in 2011. In the complaint, prosecutors alleged that Catrison had no “operational history” and was working solely as a middleman for Batbold to “siphon off millions of dollars for his personal use and benefit,” including the purchase of the apartments.

The complaint continued by saying Catrison was essentially directed by the former prime minister through an intermediary who set up accounts to divert payments from Erdenets trading partners towards. The accounts set up by the intermediary were then used to purchase the Park Avenue apartments in question.

Federal prosecutors demanded forfeiture of the properties on the basis that they are “derived from and or/are traceable to proceeds from…a financial transaction occurring in whole or in part in the United States.” If that were to be true, it is “an offense against a foreign nation involving…the misappropriation, theft or embezzlement of public funds by or for the benefit of the public official.”

Batbold’s son, Battushig Batbold, was also implicated in the complaint for being the beneficiary of another illicit $30 million contract. In it, federal prosecutors claimed Batbold’s son engaged in wire transfers for travel, school and car payments.

Batbold previously served as the prime minister of Mongolia from 2009 through 2012 and has served in the country’s Parliament since then. Batbold is not the first high ranking political official in Mongolia to be caught in a corruption scandal, former president Nambar Enkhbayar was sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of corruption and abuse of power in 2012.