MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – An American businessman who says he is being prevented from leaving Mongolia, where he is considered a potential witness in a corruption case, has asked for help from the congressional delegation in his home state of Minnesota.
Justin Kapla is president and executive director of SouthGobi Sands LLC, a Mongolian mining company. He asked delegation members for assistance in lifting his travel ban, which he said was imposed because investigators consider him a witness in a corruption investigation of government officials involving the transfer of some of his company’s minerals exploration licenses.
In an email exchange with The Associated Press, Kapla declined to talk on the record. He referred questions to his father in Minnesota, William Kapla, who provided a copy of his son’s letter to Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Michele Bachmann.
“They’re all working on it. All three of their offices are great,” William Kapla, 72, of Forest Lake, said this week. He also said the U .S. Embassy has been talking to Mongolian officials.
Justin Kapla, 39, wrote that the events in question happened well before he went to work for SouthGobi Sands. He said the Mongolian agency conducting the investigation, the Independent Authority Against Corruption, has acknowledged that but told him he still couldn’t leave because it would need to hold someone responsible if the investigation finds any wrongdoing by the company.
William Kapla told AP his son grew up in Elk River, is married to a Mongolian woman and has two children, all of whom are with him. He said his son is free to work and move around Mongolia but can’t leave.
“Would you want to sit in a country with an exit ban so you couldn’t leave? What if an emergency happened at home?” William Kapla said.
Mongolia’s economy is in the midst of a mining boom that has been criticized as benefiting foreigners and the connected few. A new government was elected last year, promising Mongolians greater benefits from the country’s mineral wealth.
Justin Kapla’s company has seen its standing with the government erode. Last spring, SouthGobi Resources Ltd., the parent company of SouthGobi Sands, tried to sell a controlling stake to China’s state-run Aluminum Corp. of China. The move would have effectively given the Chinese company control of a large coal deposit. It was dropped amid opposition from a government long fearful of economic dominance by its large southern neighbor.
Amid the ferment, the anti-corruption authority began investigating the government’s Mineral Resources Authority and its former chairman, Dorjpurev Batkhuyag, an adviser to a former prime minister whose party lost power in the June election. Batkhuyag was accused of bribery and other corruption. He was convicted this week and sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison.
Among Batkhuyag’s misdeeds, the authority alleged, were dealings with SouthGobi Sands. Five of the company’s licenses were to have been suspended because the company failed to spend sufficient funds exploring the areas, but instead Batkhuyag’s office returned most of the licenses to SouthGobi and transferred one to a private Mongolian company controlled by friends.
Klobuchar’s office said it is working with the family and the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia but declined to provide further details. Franken’s office said it has also been in touch with the family. In Washington, a State Department official said the agency was aware of Kapla’s case and providing appropriate consular assistance to him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly due to privacy concerns.
Mongolia’s anti-corruption authority declined public comment on Kapla or when the exit controls might be lifted.
Kapla’s case was first reported by Jon Springer, a freelance journalist and financial blogger.
AP reporter Ganbat Namjilsangarav contributed to this story from Ulan Bator, Mongolia; AP reporters Jeff Baenen and Amy Forliti contributed from Minneapolis.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon