Former Elk River, Minnesota resident Justin Kapla has been pardoned by the country's president and freed from prison. Kapla wasn't allowed to leave Mongolia after the coal mining company he worked for was accused of tax evasion back in 2012.Kapla was living under an exit ban in Mongolia for more than two years due to a tax evasion investigation into his former employer, SouthGobi. In late January, he was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison, all while he and his family maintained his innocence. Kapla wasn't working for the mining company when the prosecutors claim the tax evasion took place, and two other trials against him were dismissed for lack of evidence.
Observers say the allegations against Kapla and the others were political payback for SouthGobi accepting an offer to sell a majority stake in their country to a Chinese government that owned company back in 2012. Mongolia and China have a history of animosity going back hundreds of years before Genghis Khan's power in the 1200's. The Mongolian government has since passed new rules on foreign investment that blocked the deal, and many believe Kapla's pardon is an attempt by the president to save face in the international business community as foreign investment has dropped off due to backlash from Kapla's case, among others.Kapla's wife is from Mongolia and he has two children. A spokesperson for the family says they expect all 4 to be back this weekend, but the details are still being worked out.
More: Minn. man in Mongolian prison: 'A place that will take time off your life'
Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken began working with the family in Oct. 2012.
Statements from Minnesota delegates
"Justin Kapla will soon be reunited with his friends and family after far too long. We worked with the State Department and the Mongolian government to assist in resolving Justin's case and I wish him and his family the best moving forward from this incident and the hardships it has caused." - Sen. Amy Klobuchar
"I can only imagine what a difficult time this has been for Justin and his family, but I am so happy to hear the news that he's coming home. My office has been working on this case for more than two years, and we've contacted the US consulate in Mongolia, the Mongolian Ambassador to the United States, the Mongolian Prosecutor General, and Secretary of State John Kerry—all in the hopes of helping Justin to be able to leave Mongolia and see his family in Minnesota. I'm glad to see that day has finally come." - Sen. Al Franken
Deplorable conditions in Mongolian prison
Television shows like "Locked Up Abroad" reveal the sometimes deplorable conditions Americans can face in prisons overseas. Forbes contributor Jon Springer has been following Kapla's case since the husband and father of two wasn't allowed to leave Mongolia after the coal mining company he worked for was accused of tax evasion back in 2012. After Kapla was found guilty last month, he wrote in a letter to his family that he is in a 12 by 12 foot cell, denied visitors, and sometimes showers even though they are supposed to get one every 12 days.
"Current conditions in the current jail have to be in bed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The rest of the day they have to be sitting or standing. They are in their cell all day every day except for two times a week, they are allowed out for fresh air for 20 minutes," Springer told Fox 9 via Skype.