AKIPRESS.COM - Switzerland’s highest court has upheld the seizure of $1.85 million in Swiss bank accounts, part of a corruption probe linked to a former Mongolian finance minister who helped clear the way for a disputed Rio Tinto mining project, a ruling showed.
The Swiss Office of the Attorney General (OAG) also confirmed it has an ongoing criminal investigation in which prosecutors contend one of the seized accounts was used to transfer $10 million to the ex-minister, Bayartsogt Sangajav, Reuters reported.
Anti-graft authorities in Mongolia are investigating the country’s 2009 investment pact with Rio Tinto, signed by Bayartsogt, that kickstarted the British-Australian company’s Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in the Gobi desert.
Neither the OAG nor the heavily redacted Swiss Federal Tribunal ruling, released on Friday, identified Bayartsogt or Rio Tinto by name, but the court documents include details that clearly show both are elements of the OAG’s probe.
The court documents refer to Rio Tinto’s mine, now undergoing a $5.3 billion expansion, but do not accuse the company of wrongdoing on the project.
A spokesman for the Swiss OAG declined further comment on its investigation, saying it was confidential and adding those being scrutinized are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Rio Tinto declined comment when contacted by Reuters.
“We confirm the Swiss attorney general’s office is conducting a criminal proceeding due to suspicion of bribery of foreign officials and money laundering,” the OAG said in an emailed response to Reuters.