Mongolia’s Ex-President Given Four-Year Jail Term in Graft Trial

Former Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar was found guilty of graft charges and sentenced to four years in prison, a court spokesman in Mongolia said. He has 14 days to appeal the decision.

The Sukhbaatar district court’s decision, which includes an order to confiscate more than 30 million tugriks ($22,206) of Enkhbayar’s property including apartments, was passed at about 10 p.m. yesterday, Amarsaikhan Tumenzorigt, a spokesman for the General Executive Agency of Court Decision, said today by phone in Ulan Bator, Mongolia’s capital.

“This is shocking news,” said Peter Goldsmith, a partner at New York-based Debevoise & Plimpton LLP law firm, who was employed by the family to help with Enkhbayar’s case. There is concern about the court’s approach to evidence and the family will now consider its next action, Goldsmith, a member of the U.K.’s upper house of parliament and an ex-attorney general, said by phone today.

The trial of Enkhbayar, who served as president until 2009 and earlier was Mongolia’s prime minister, has divided public opinion in the commodity-rich nation that last year emerged as China’s main supplier of coking coal. Enkhbayar was named the nation’s most prominent politician in a June poll by the Sant Maral foundation.

Parliamentary Elections

The court case was deferred until after the June 28 parliamentary elections in which Enkhbayar led his newly formed Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party.

Although Enkhbayar and his son Batshugar weren’t allowed by the General Election Commission to take seats in parliament, the MPRP-led Justice Coalition won the third-largest block of seats in the State Great Khural.

As Enkhbayar’s name is often connected with corruption in Mongolia, his past actions need to be investigated and put on trial, Ganhuyag Chuluun Hutagt, the vice finance minister at the time, said in May.

Charges against Enkhbayar included stealing a donation of television equipment valued at $113,000 that was meant to go to a Buddhist monastery in 2000 and not paying duties to ship books that he authored from South Korea to Mongolia. Enkhbayar has denied the charges.

The case will pass onto the Ulan Bator city court, and then possibly the Supreme Court, should Enkhbayar choose to appeal, Amarsaikhan said. Two men judged to be Enkhbayar’s accomplices also received jail terms of a year and two years, he said, without providing further details.

Enkhbayar went on a 10-day hunger strike in May to protest his detention on corruption charges. He was hospitalized and then released on bail. Enkhbayar and his family said the detention -- on charges dating as far back as 2000 -- was an attempt by the government to sideline him from power.

President Tsakhia Elbegdorj has denied that Enkhbayar’s arrest is political and instead in June called on Mongolia’s international allies to get behind the country’s drive to stamp out corruption.

“The last word will be with our court,” Elbegdorj said in an interview in June. “That is where it will be decided.”

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