International Law

Rio Tinto Subsidiary Lawyer Detained in Mongolia as Alleged Corruption Witness

A lawyer for the Rio Tinto subsidiary SouthGobi Resources, which recently lodged a notice of investment dispute with the Mongolian government, has been detained there as a witness to alleged corruption and money laundering.

According to the Australian (sub. req.), Sarah Armstrong, 32, signed a complaint against the Mongolian government four months ago. Also, her company recently rejected a move by the government there to reconstruct its investment in the copper and gold mine Oyu Tolgoi, which is Mongolia’s biggest mining project.

Armstrong is from Australia, and the country’s foreign minister’s office has said they don’t know what laws are being used to stop her from leaving Mongolia. According to the Australian, Armstrong is free to move around Mongolia. She was stopped while boarding a flight to Hong Kong.

“They haven’t taken her passport, but they’ve asked her not to leave the country,” a spokesperson for the foreign minister’s office told the Australian. “I understand it’s in relation to an investigation they’re doing into someone else, that she might be a witness to or have information of. Who they are is a mystery at this point.”

The paper also interviewed Armstrong’s mother, Yvonne.

“I’ve understood the situation for a long time. It’s pretty hairy, certainly when it’s happening to your own daughter,” she said. “We’ve heard from her. She rang not long ago, actually. We just hope she gets out safely, basically.

“Last night, she actually phoned my son rather than cry on the phone and upset us.”

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