Former Mongolian prime ministers Saikhanbileg Chimed and Sanjaagiin Bayar were both detained on April 11 by the country’s anti-graft authorities as part of an investigation into allegations of corrupt mining payments.
The probe concerns Mongolia’s flagship Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine, located in the Gobi desert. Over the weekend former finance minister Bayartsogt Sangajav and two other officials tied to Erdenes Mongol, the state-owned holding company created to hold Mongolia’s shares in mining projects including Oyu Tolgoi and the Tavan Tolgoi coking coal deposit, were arrested.
The investigation dates back to revelations in the leaked Panama Papers that a Swiss bank account in the name of Bayartsogt received dubious money transfers. The Mongolian Anti-Corruption Authority (ACA) is examining the 2009 Oyu Tolgoi investment pact made with Australian-British mining corporation Rio Tinto and signed by the ex-finance minister.
It was previously reported that Saikhanbileg has become the highest-ranking official to find himself enveloped