Corruption investigation of MP Kh.Battulga erupts in controversy
The Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) and the Division against Economic Crimes at the Criminal Police Department is investigating MP Kh.Battulga on suspicions of organized money laundering, and conducted a five-hour search at the offices of two of his companies at Bayangol Hotel Office building, where news outlets, MPs, celebrity athletes, and others gathered outside the building in protest against the investigation.
The IAAC and police officers conducted searches at the offices of Tumen Khishgten, a company founded to build a Chinggis Khan monument and tourist destination, and Bayalgiin Khuvi, an infrastructure investment company. News.mn reported that MP Kh.Battulga was with MPs L.Erdenechimeg and D.Ganbat and journalist L.Munkhbayasgalan when police officers entered his office at approximately 3:00 p.m. MP L.Erdenechimeg said that Kh.Battulga’s assistant had been arrested the previous morning, on April 10.
Five armed special police officers began guarding the Bayangol Hotel Office entrance at approximately 4:00 p.m. and oversaw entry and exit. The special police force allegedly demanded that the companies’ employees turn their phones off to cut off outside communication concerning the investigation.
MPs J.Batzandan, B.Garamgaibaatar, G.Uyanga, and M.Zorigt were joined by Mayor E.Bat-Uul outside of the building, saying they saw news of the investigation on social media. While journalists and cameras not already in the building were not permitted inside, many news outlets quickly gathered outside the entrance to report on developments in the story and reports were being broadcast live on television and online.
MP J.Batzandan said, “The police investigation is getting out of hand. I have information that they’re conducting an illegal investigation. All investigations must abide by the law. I came here to see the investigation process.” MP B.Garamgaibaatar said there was nothing else they could do except watch the investigation being carried out.
“The arrival of Members of Parliament doesn’t create an advantage. We can’t make any statements now because we don’t know what’s going on,” said B.Garamgaibaatar. Mayor E.Bat-Uul tried to enter the building but was denied access.
After leaving the building at 4:56 p.m., Advisor to the Speaker of the Parliament on Mortgage and Construction Affairs and General Secretary of the Mongolian Democratic Union G.Baigalmaa said she believed the investigative procedures were directly related to the election. “This might even be related to disabling the MP’s right to run for office,” G.Baigalmaa said. Rumors spread that Mongolian Democratic Union members were going to be arrested in connection to a case involving the alleged misappropriation of funds for the construction of new railway.
MP G.Baigalmaa drew a connection to the arrest of MP Kh.Battulga’s former assistant, G.Tuvshinjargal. “This is all for political purposes. You can see, investigate, and check whether we laundered the money; everything’s open in the media. You all saw Tuvshinjargal getting arrested. She was held in custody for 13 days but was released without being interrogated once. If we had really committed a crime, there was enough time to come up with evidence,” said G.Baigalmaa.
Kh.Battulga’s daughter B.Namuun said, “We’re just really living in a society where the law is no longer the law. They said they were only going to conduct a search. Then, what a big car they brought. Everyone who has opened their mouths about Oyu Tolgoi is being pressured. The reason behind all this is obvious. It’s probably methods to make him not participate in the election.”
People who introduced themselves as the first members of the Mongolian Democratic Union, as well as athletes led by Mongolian Judo Association coach O.Baljinnyam and Olympic judo medalist N.Tuvshinbayar, gathered outside the Bayangol Hotel Office.
Judoka Kh.Tsagaanbaatar said the athletes were afraid for sports officials who were in the building and involved in the investigation. “We received the news at around 4:50 p.m. and came here instead of practicing. The Olympics are approaching. Our athletes are leaving for the Asian Championships tomorrow. It’s an important competition to gain Olympic points. There are other important competitions apart from this. I’m surprised that law enforcement is doing this to the Head of the Mongolian Judo Association at this important time. This situation is causing a lot of stress and fear. I hope our law enforcement works according to the law. We athletes are confident that our head didn’t commit any illegal activities,” said Kh.Tsagaanbaatar.
There was public criticism concerning the appearance of what was reported to be 500 police officers called in to support the search for financial records. Spokesperson for the General Police Department B.Baatarkhuu made a statement at approximately 6:00 p.m. and said, “MP Kh.Battulga is suspected of being associated with organized money laundering involving a large amount of money for the Sainshand Industrial Park project and the New Railroad project. We’re conducting financial investigations at two companies of his. We didn’t assault the MP and we don’t intend to arrest him either. We sent support to prevent chaos that might arise during the investigation.”
At 7:34 p.m., police officers arrived and tried to enter the building to get their investigators out safely. A number of athletes had blocked the building’s entrance and refused to let police officers enter or exit the building. At 7:40 p.m., special police officers eventually exited the building with three boxes of confiscated documents and one computer hard drive. MPs Kh.Battulga, L.Erdenechimeg, and D.Ganbat were allowed to exit the building at that time.
“It’s unfortunate the railway case is now involving private companies. I’m sure the people who ordered this will be revealed soon. It’s not a good thing to polarize the public. Thank you all,” said Kh.Battulga, and he then went back inside the Bayangol Hotel Office. According to one source, the MPs who were with Kh.Battulga during the investigation went to the Parliament House afterwards to hold a closed meeting about the financial investigation.
MP D.Ganbat said that law enforcement can’t “disturb the peace” in this manner and added that all private organizations are protected under the Amnesty Law when being accused of financial crimes. “I headed the legal working group for the Amnesty Law. If there really is an issue, it would be subject to the Amnesty Law. Just stop making a big deal,” the MP said.
MP L.Erdenechimeg said the issue is all related to Tavan Tolgoi. “There are Tavan Tolgoi groups in all parties. The agreement which allowed the transfer of Tavan Tolgoi to foreigners was terminated and not signed. This is why this all started. If we don’t solve the Tavan Tolgoi issue, this situation will continue,” she said. The MP added that Kh.Battulga wasn’t arrested because other people were present, and that at the time of the investigation they were discussing amendments to the Law on Elections to abolish the assignment of 28 seats in Parliament from lists of candidates submitted by political parties.
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