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Stuck in Mongolia

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Christopher Bradley should be packing his towel and swimmers for a trip to the Great Barrier Reef but instead he’s sitting in a hotel room in freezing-cold Mongolia.

Mr Bradley, a New Zealander who lives in Australia, can’t leave the central Asian country because of a travel ban slapped on him by Mongolian officials.

He’s been to the country more than 100 times over the past nine years, working as a consultant for South African lender Standard Bank.

This time he was in Mongolia attempting to recover loans from holding company Just Group – a service supplier for the state-controlled railway and copper mine.

But two weeks ago, as he prepared to leave and head back to Sydney, he was called into a police station and told he’s a suspect in a legal investigation against Just Group.

“Coming to Mongolia for nine years I feel a bit embarrassed, I should have seen it coming, but I just couldn’t believe it,” he said from his hotel in Ulaanbaatar.

Mr Bradley was told he had approved and signed off on loans for the company, although he says his signature is not on the documents.

“They said `you’re here, you’re detained, your freedom is gone because you signed’.

“As ridiculous as that is, it’s just not true anyway.”

It could be an unwanted white Christmas for the Kiwi – police have told him he’ll be in Mongolia for the “foreseeable future”.

The father of five was supposed to be flying out of Sydney with his wife on Thursday for their first trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s his 51st birthday next week which he’ll likely be spending in sub-zero temperatures, rather than on a beach.

He also has plans to visit his elderly mother in Auckland just before Christmas.

“I speak to her every day because she’s in that sort of way,” he said.

She doesn’t yet know he’s stuck in Mongolia.

“It’s death by a thousand cuts,” he said.

“I really miss my family.”

Police haven’t yet taken his passport but they have told him they’ve reported him to Interpol.

There’s no New Zealand diplomatic mission in Mongolia but the British embassy is providing Mr Bradley with support.

He’s also had contact with the New Zealand embassy in Beijing.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) says it is aware of the travel ban placed on Mr Bradley “which prevents him leaving Mongolia while an investigation into legal proceedings takes place”.

“The New Zealand government cannot intervene in the legal processes of Mongolia,” an MFAT spokesman said.

Mr Bradley says his living conditions are comfortable but the police have acted with either “gross incompetence or active vindictiveness”.

“I’m pretty convinced that this is politically motivated.”

But he’s still hoping the saga might just be a mistake and he’ll be able to go home.

“I hope that what they can say is `I’m sorry man it was some sort of mix up.'”