Tuesday, 25 December 2012 08:02
The parents of an Australian lawyer who was barred from leaving Mongolia for two months have received an early Christmas present, with the news their daughter is finally on her way home.
Sarah Armstrong was stopped at Ulan Bator airport in mid-October because authorities wanted to question her in relation to corruption allegations.
On Christmas Eve, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman confirmed the 32-year-old had boarded a flight out of the country, which had taken off by 7pm (AEST).
Mum, Yvonne, told AAP she had been bracing for a Christmas spent thinking of her daughter stuck in Mongolia.
"All I wanted to hear was that she was on a plane," she said on Monday from her Tasmanian home.
She got the good news via text message from a friend in Mongolia.
Mrs Armstrong said her daughter had told her on Friday that she thought she would be allowed to leave within days, but she had been trying not to get her hopes up.
Also on Friday, it is understood, Foreign Minister Bob Carr again contacted the Mongolian ambassador to Australia about Ms Armstrong's case.
Senator Carr also flagged the Australian government's concerns when he met the Mongolian foreign minister in November.
Ms Armstrong is a lawyer for Rio Tinto mining subsidiary SouthGobi Resources.
The company on Monday said Mongolia's Independent Authority Against Corruption (IAAC) had ended its questioning of the lawyer.
SouthGobi has been informed by the IAAC that the 32-year-old "is no longer a suspect in their investigations", the coal firm said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange where it is listed.
Mongolian officials said Ms Armstrong was wanted over an investigation into the former chief of Mongolia's mining authority, which is suspected of illegally handling mining licences, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
Senator Carr said it was "great news" – and good timing.
"I understand her family have been advised of her departure from Mongolia and look forward to seeing her for Christmas," he said in a statement on Monday.
"I thank the Mongolian government and particularly Foreign Minister (Luvsanvandan) Bold for their willingness to resolve this matter.
"I also applaud our consular staff...including consuls general David Lawson and Tony Burchill, who worked tirelessly in making representations on Ms Armstrong's behalf."
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