Mongolian President Accused of Smearing Political Rival

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The former prime minister of Mongolia said in a New York court filing that he is the victim of a global smear campaign likely orchestrated by the current president to label him as corrupt ahead of a June election.

Sukhbaatar Batbold, a businessman who was Mongolia’s prime minister from 2009 to 2012, claimed President Khaltmaagiin Battulga appears to be the architect of a series of lawsuits in courts around the world accusing him of leading a massive corruption scheme. Batbold is expected to oppose Battulga in Mongolia’s presidential election in June.

“This application is brought to obtain critical evidence located in New York to identify the parties behind and help fight off the sham lawsuits brought on three continents,” Batbold said in the court filing in New York Tuesday.

A representative for Battulga called the claims in the legal filing inaccurate and biased.

Battulga, a onetime martial arts champion who has been compared to Donald Trump, rose to power in 2017 in part by stoking populist anger over what he depicted as the theft of Mongolian natural resources by multinational giants. He cast blame on previous Mongolian politicians who he said sold the country out to foreign mining interests.

Batbold was accused along with several other individuals of orchestrating a corruption scheme involving two major Mongolian mines that generated $250 million in illegal profits. Lawsuits were filed against Batbold and others in U.S., U.K., Hong Kong, Singaporean and Mongolian courts by a Mongolian government agency and two state-owned mining companies. The agency also has a New York federal court action seeking records of financial transactions involving Batbold from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

But Batbold alleges those plaintiffs are likely a front for Battulga. He is also opposing the Mongolian government’s attempts to access records from JPMorgan.

“The case we filed today in the United States District Court exposes the true political motive behind these foreign lawsuits and the threat they pose to Mongolian democracy,” Orin Snyder, Batbold’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement.

Batbold filed his case under a U.S. statute allowing participants in foreign court proceedings to request documents or other evidence in the U.S. He is seeking a court order allowing him to obtain evidence from the New York-based investigative firm K2 Integrity, which has been probing public officials in Mongolia and has assisted in litigation against the former prime minister.

K2 didn’t respond to a request for comment. Lawyers representing Mongolian entities accusing Batbold of corruption didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

As president, Battulga has cozied up with Russian President Vladimir Putin and engineered legislation that gave him the power to fire judges and top law enforcement officials.

Calling himself a “steadfast advocate of democracy,” Batbold claims the suits accusing him of corruption are part of a pattern of authoritarian behavior by Battulga. “Under Battulga’s grip, Mongolia’s young democracy is in jeopardy as it slides toward authoritarian rule,” Batbold said in his filing.

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