Former Mongolian PM denies he bought two luxury Manhattan apartments with mining fraud proceeds

Former Mongolian PM denies he bought two luxury Manhattan apartments with mining fraud proceeds
Batbold says he looks forward to his day in court. / Alexey Druzhinin /, cc-by-sa 4.0
By bne IntelliNews March 27, 2024

Former Mongolian PM Sukhbaatar Batbold has vowed to defend himself against allegations that he purchased two luxury apartments in New York City with the proceeds of a corrupt scheme in which his family-controlled firm was awarded a major mining contract.

US authorities on March 25 outlined the allegations as they announced that federal prosecutors would seek to seize the prime real estate in midtown Manhattan, worth $14m.

Batbold, 60, who served as PM from 2009-2012 and still sits in parliament, issued a statement through his lawyer Orin Snyder, which was reported by Reuters. It read: "Mr. Batbold looks forward to his day in court, when he will have the opportunity to defend himself against these unfounded claims."

Corruption associated with mining, the bedrock of Mongolia’s economy, is a very sore point with Mongolians. In late 2022, Mongolians took to the streets in their capital, Ulaanbaatar, after revelations about a “coal mafia” thought to have embezzled billions of dollars of profits from coal exports to China.

Batbold is not facing charges in the Manhattan property case himself, but the apartments could be subject to forfeiture by the state if the court rules the prosecutors' claims as valid.

The US prosecutors claim Batbold bought two high-end apartments just blocks away from Central Park; one at The Carlton House, a building just one block away on East 61st Street, and a condo unit in the The Park Imperial, a 70-storey glass skyscraper, a few doors down from Carnegie Hall.

Batbold is accused of "funnelling millions of dollars from mining contracts through illegitimate shell companies to finance his family's lavish lifestyle".

"Batbold's alleged behaviour—personally profiting off of public corruption comes at the expense of the law-abiding citizens he governed," the BBC reported FBI Assistant director-in-charge James Smith as saying.

Catrison—the company the prosecutors state was controlled by Batbold through intermediaries when he was prime minister—is said to have won a $68m mining contract despite having no pre-existing mining operations or history. Allegedly, its sole director was a former linguistics teacher.

Millions of dollars from the mining contract and others, the prosecutors claim, were siphoned into foreign bank accounts and moved through shell companies.

The court claim lodged by the prosecutors states that one of the apartments was used by Batbold's eldest son. He listed the address as his US postal address.