An Australian lawyer working for a mining company in Mongolia has been stopped from leaving the country, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Wednesday, as authorities probe a case of alleged corruption.
Sarah Armstrong, the 32-year-old chief legal counsel to Rio Tinto subsidiary SouthGobi Resources, was unable to board a flight from the capital Ulan Bator to Hong Kong, reports said.
"I understand an Australian woman who works for a company in Mongolia has found that she's prevented from leaving the country," Foreign Minister Bob Carr told ABC Radio.
"She hasn't been detained, hasn't been arrested. Her passport hasn't been taken from her. But the authorities in Ulan Bator are seeking to interview her further.
"Not, I'm advised, about any allegations against her, but about a complex matter between the company she works for, the resources authority of Mongolia and the Mongolia anti-corruption authority."
Carr refused to comment on the details of the case involving Armstrong, who The Australian newspaper said had four months ago signed a complaint against the Mongolian government.
It is believed that officials want to question her as a witness to alleged corruption and money-laundering, the newspaper said.
In a statement issued in Hong Kong, SouthGobi said neither it nor any of its employees had been charged with any wrongdoing.
"SouthGobi continues to cooperate with the Mongolian government agencies including the Independent Authority Against Corruption in their ongoing investigations," it said.
Rio Tinto, which has a majority stake in the Canada-based company Turquoise Hill of which SouthGobi is a subsidiary, said it would not comment on the matter.
The global miner was previously caught up in a foreign corruption scandal when four of its executives, including Australian Stern Hu, were arrested in China in 2009 and jailed for bribery.
Carr, who opened Australia's consulate in Mongolia earlier this month, said he hoped the matter would be resolved swiftly.
"Our relationship with Mongolia is very good and I think we'll have good access in seeking to resolve this case," he said.
Australia is the biggest investor in Mongolia's mining sector, and the largest mine in the resource-rich country is backed by Australian money, he noted.