Former Mongolian Energy Minister M.Sonompil was sentenced to four years in prison over the abuse of power on Wednesday, 24 July 2019.
M.Sonompil worked as Energy Minister between 2012 and 2016. Those were decisive years when energy development in Mongolia fell victim of corruption and political favors. Instead of pursuing less ambitious and expensive projects in improving overall energy system, rehabilitating and upgrading existing facilities and developing true renewables, the country’s elite was favoring white elephants such as 10GW Shivee-Ovoo Thermal power plant, Ulaan Baatar CHPP #5, Baganuur Thermal Power plant, and numerous large hydropower projects.
Thus on November 14, 2013 the construction of a 220 MW hydroelectric power plant at Eg River was discussed by the government and the Minister of Energy, M.Sonompil, and Minister of Economic Development, N.Batbayar (arrested in 2017) were instructed to collect the required budget for the project’s next phases though commercial bank loans and by establishing contracts with domestic and foreign investors… That was the time when Shuren and Egiin Gol hydropower projects were revived and the Rivers without Boundaries Coalition had to take a stand to safeguard the ecosystems of largest rivers of Mongolia and Lake Baikal World Heritage Site.
Good half of entries on the RwB’s web-site are dedicated to this battle, which so far goes well for us: Shuren Hydro feasibility study was cancelled, funding for Egiin Gol has been frozen, basin-wide Regional Environmental Assessment has been promised by Mongolian Government to determine what are allowable limits and optimal schemes for energy and water development in Selenge River basin. More than that, except for illusionary coal-thermal megaplans, country’s energy planning became more sober with greater attention paid to overall system management and analysis of alternative options.
However, this victory has a bitter taste, for if ministers and parliamentarians of Mongolia have not sought kickbacks from megaprojects and instead focused more on sustainable development of the country, we probably could spend those 7 years more productively developing river basin management plans and educating local communities. Instead we had to fight against destruction and corruption defending rights of people and nature.
The Khan-Uul District Court of Ulaanbaatar ruled that M.Sonompil was guilty on charges and had to forfeit MNT 266 million, which he had acquired by illegal means. The Mongolian Independent Authority against Corruption charged M.Sonompil in October, 2017 in connection with the government tender and financing of the ‘Amgalan’ Thermal Plant.
We hope that investigation continues and corrupt officials who illegally benefited from Shuren, Orkhon, Chargait, Egiin Gol and Erdeneburen hydropower projects and the Baganuur CHP will also be investigated and taken to the court.