Ex-UN General Assembly president among six held over 'bribery scheme'
A former president of the United Nations General Assembly has been arrested and charged with accepting over one million dollars (£657,000) in bribes from a billionaire Chinese property mogul and other businesspeople to pave the way for lucrative investments.
John Ashe, the UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who served in the largely ceremonial post from September 2013 to September 2014, faces conspiracy-related and bribery-related charges along with five others, including Francis Lorenzo, a deputy UN ambassador from the Dominican Republic.
Those charged in a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court included Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who was arrested two weeks ago along with his chief assistant, Jeff C Yin, a US citizen whose bail was revoked last week after investigators said he lied to them after his arrest.
According to court papers, Ashe used his UN positions to introduce a document supporting a multibillion-dollar UN-sponsored conference centre that Ng hoped to build as his legacy in Macau, where he lived. Prosecutors said the conference centre would function as a sort of satellite operation for the world body.
The scheme unfolded over the course of nearly three years, from 2011 through 2014, and included Ashe's tenure as General Assembly head, prosecutors said. Authorities said in return for bribes, Ashe used his UN authority to promote Ng's interests and helped Ng meet government officials from Antigua who could help him with investments.
Ng and his assistant had previously been held by federal authorities on charges they lied about plans for 4.5 million dollars (£2.95 million) in cash brought into the US over several years aboard private jets.
Prosecutors say some of the bribe money funded first-class airfares for Ashe, his wife and two children to New Orleans, where they stayed in an 850 dollar-a-night hotel room.
Other money, they said, was used to construct a 30,000 dollar basketball court at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York. He opened two bank accounts to receive the funds and then underreported his income by more than 1.2 million dollars, officials said.
Prosecutors said two other arrested individuals were involved with Ng. They were identified as Sheri Yan and Heidi Park, both naturalised US citizens who reside in China and helped facilitate the scheme, prosecutors said.