Dark Side
The Three In The Dock
By Ch.Sumiyabazar, UB Post 27/9/07 (Ulanbataar)
Oct 3, 2007 - 9:26:29 AM

THE Standing Committee of Parliament on State Structure decided by nine votes to three on Wednesday to refuse the State General Prosecutor’s request to the Speaker  to set aside the immunity of three Parliament members so that they can be questioned about their alleged involvement in the large sum of cash missing from the recently-privatized Savings Bank of Mongolia. The request, along with the committee’s recommendation, will now be debated in Parliament. Its decision will be known only late on Wednesday evening at the earliest, which is after our time to go to press. The members of the State Great Hural sought to be questioned are T.Badamjunai, G.Zandanshatar, and U.Khurelsukh. They all belong to the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, the dominant partner in the ruling coalition. The original request was sent on Friday but the Speaker returned the letter for clarification of certain legal provisions contained in it. The General Prosecutor, M.Altankhuyag, submitted a revised request to the Speaker, D.Lundeejantsan, on Monday. The coalition immediately swung into action in support of the three. The sub-standing committee on parliamentarians’ immunity met on Tuesday evening to ask questions of Altankhuyag, and the head of the General Police Department, Gen. M.Ganbold. Media were barred from the meeting and were only told later that the committee had unanimously decided not to withdraw the immunity. Soon after the committee’s decision was announced, the MPRP group in Parliament met to take a decision on the question. An overwhelming majority were against lifting the immunity. Only two of the 29 members present, Ts.Sharavdorj and T.Gandi, thought the three should be questioned. Sharavdorj later told media that it would be wrong to interfere in the legitimate work of law enforcement agencies. “In a situation like this, those three members should have volunteered to do without the immunity.

They should take the proposed questioning as an opportunity to demonstrate that they are not guilty of any wrongdoing.” The Standing Committee on State Structure met on Wednesday to decide on whether to send the Prosecutor’s request to Parliament. There the three defended themselves. Khurelsukh said he had nothing to do with the case and was prepared to face any interrogation by a “just and fair law institution”. Badamjunai said his visit to Seoul when Chimedtseren was also there “was just a coincidence”, and so was their meeting in the casino. He expressed his wish that law enforcement agencies could do their work without calling for members’ immunity to be withdrawn. Zandanshatar explained that he had been asked by Parliament to visit Japan and the Philippines to study casino laws there. “But I have no involvement in this case,” he said, and expressed his wish that his rights as a parliamentarian should not be disturbed.

The Russian-invested Chinggis Khaan Bank purchased the country’s last state-run bank, Savings Bank, last December for Tg23.4 billion. Speaking for the new ownership, Sergey Gromov, a Russian national, said in February that around US$10 million of the bank’s assets could not be traced. A joint internal audit by the bank and the country’s central bank, the Mongol Bank, was carried out. Its report, made public in June, revealed that Tg14.3 million had been misused by the bank’s deputy accountant, Ts.Chimedtseren, in illegal transactions in his own name and in the name of other individuals and companies. Pursuing the investigations, the Criminal Police Department found that between February 2004 and January 2007Chimedtseren had used the money to gamble repeatedly in two casinos in South Korea, Seven Luck and Walker Hill. The police also said that video records provided by the casinos showed the three members of Parliament had been with Chimedtseren.

In his letter to the Speaker the General Prosecutor has said he needs to know from the parliamentarians where they found the money to gamble in foreign casinos. He needs to examine their sources of private income, and whether they were involved in the occasional withdrawals of large sums of money from the Savings Bank.

The three have issued press statements denying any involvement in the case. The daily Odriin Sonin on Tuesday published a letter from Chimedtseren, now in prison, which says, “No one besides me was involved in the case.” The letter was addresed to the newspaper but bore no date and it is not yet confirmed whether it was indeed Chimedtseren’s writing and signature. It says, “I regret that some political forces and individuals have politicized the issue and embroiled members of Parliament, and my friends and relatives, in the case, only to mislead the public.” In its own report on the case on Tuesday, the Odriin Sonin quoted a police source as saying that Chimedtseren spent time in the casinos together with Khurelsukh, Zandanshatar, and Badamjunai, and also gave “donations” to their election campaign funds. He also gave money to the Mongolian Democratic Socialist Youth Union, an organization of which Zandanshatar is president.

Chimedtseren is earlier believed to have told the police about his ties to the three members of parliament. These statements were considered to be so significant that the police were worried about his safety and transferred him to a prison in Darkhan-Uul aimag from Gants Khudag, the usual pre-trial detention center in Ulaanbaatar city. The last time Parliament lifted the immunity of its members was in 1999, when, following investigation, three members were jailed for accepting bribes from casino owners.

The main opposition force, the Democratic Party, has said in a statement that everyone should be treated equally before a court of law. The Chair of the Civil Will Party, S.Oyun, has called for letting police and judicial institutions work independently and free from any political influence. “The State Great Hural is not a judicial institution. It should allow proper legal forums the opportunity to do their work,” she said.

Source: Ocnus.net 2007