Whitehall anger over Mongolian spy chief release
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Tuesday 04 October 2011
A Mongolian spymaster whose arrest for extradition on kidnapping charges sparked a crisis between Britain and her emerging Asian ally has returned home after unexpectedly being freed by German authorities.
In a move understood to have raised eyebrows in Whitehall, Germany last week withdrew charges against Bat Khurts, who until this summer had been languishing in Wandsworth prison while a diplomatic and legal battle raged over claims from the Mongolian goverment that he was a victim of entrapment by the British authorities.
The release of Mr Khurts, head of Mongolia's National Security Council, came ahead of a planned visit to the country next week by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mongolian officials said they were "grateful" for the decision, although Germany insisted there was no link between therelease and Mrs Merkel's arrival.
The trial of the spy chief on kidnapping charges had been due to begin in Germany on 24 October after his formal extradition from Britain in August at the request of prosecutors in Berlin.
The Foreign Office said yesterday: "Mr Khurts was extradited to Germany after the passing of the deadline for any appeal. It is not for us to comment on the decisions of the German courts."
The return of Mr Khurts to his position in Ulan Bator represents a remarkable change in fortune for the security chief, who was held on a European arrest warrant as he left an Aeroflot flight at Heathrow in August last year for his alleged part in the kidnapping in 2003 of a Mongolian dissident outside a McDonald's restaurant in the French port of Le Havre.
The security official, described as one of the most senior figures in the Mongolian government, had arrived in London expecting to hold high-level talks with Whitehall officials about closer security co-operation. Sandwiched between Russia and China with huge mineral reserves, Mongolia is considered an increasingly important political and economic ally by Western powers.
The visit of Mr Khurts was arranged after contacts between William Dickson, then British ambassador to Ulan Bator, and Mongolian officials. But the Foreign Office later insisted that no formal invitation had been issued and that the spy chief had travelled to London without any diplomatic status.
The Mongolian government fought the extradition in London's High Court, claiming that the Foreign Office had effectively lured Mr Khurts to Europe to ensure he could be arrested for the 2003 kidnapping.
The legal row plunged Britain's improving relations with Mongolia into crisis, with its government describing the arrest of Mr Khurts as a "grave discourtesy" and officials warning that British business would be frozen out of lucrative contracts in a booming economy.
The Germany Embassy in London was unavailable to comment yesterday but German diplomats in Ulan Bator last week insisted the release of Mr Khurts, who was greeted by Mongolia's deputy Foreign Minister, was a matter for the country's courts.
- 1 JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
- 4 Video shows what happens when lava is poured onto ice
- 5 Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Andreas Lubitz: Who is Germanwings co-pilot who 'locked out captain and crashed flight 9525'?
Germanwings crash: The poignant final photograph taken by Iranian journalist on doomed flight after watching Barcelona play Real Madrid
#FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Cate Blanchett loses temper during interview: 'That's your f**king question?'
Jeremy Clarkson calls on trolls to leave producer Oisin Tymon alone: 'None of this is his fault'
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Vote Ukip, says far-right group Britain First
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...