Swiss court upholds asset seizure in case of Mongolian ex-minister
The Federal Court has ruled as legitimate the seizure of several Swiss bank accounts in a corruption probe linking a former Mongolian finance minister and mining giant Rio Tinto.
The accounts were first seized by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG)in 2016, when it launched its probe into the 2008 transfer of some CHF9.62 million ($10.1 million) to bank accounts owned by Bayartsogt Sangajav, who had just become Mongolian finance minister.
According to Reuters, the seizure is part of an ongoing Swiss investigation linked to a Mongolian corruption probe into Bayartsogt’s 2009 deal giving Rio Tinto access to a large copper-gold mining project in the Gobi Desert.
Though neither the Swiss attorney general’s office nor the Federal Court ruling (published last Friday) mentioned Bayartsogt or Rio Tinto by name, reported Reuters, court documents clearly indicate that they are being investigated.
“It is very suspicious that the minister of a foreign country, immediately after taking a ministerial post, would be the recipient of such a large sum,” the Federal Court ruling said.
In rejecting the appeal made by the unnamed holder of the blocked account, the Federal Court also said that large amounts of money of questionable origin had been transferred in a way “typical of money laundering”.
The account holder, whose lawyer did not reply to a Reuters email asking for comment, had challenged the seizure on the grounds that there was insufficient suspicion; that Switzerland lacked jurisdiction; that the statute of limitations had expired; and that the holder was protected by diplomatic immunity.
In 2013, Bayartsogt resigned his position as deputy speaker of the Mongolian parliament following revelations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists about his holding a Swiss bank account.