Ex-UN General Assembly head among 6 held for bribery

2015-10-06 19:02
John Ashe. (AP File 2013)

John Ashe. (AP File 2013)

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New York - Former UN General Assembly president John Ashe accepted more than $500 000 in bribes from a Chinese real estate mogul and other businesspeople in exchange for help obtaining lucrative investments and government contracts, according to federal court documents unsealed on Tuesday.

In exchange for the money, federal prosecutors say Ashe used his position as Permanent Resident to the United Nations for Antigua and Barbuda and General Assembly head to introduce a UN document in support of a real estate project being developed by Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng. The scheme unfolded over the course of nearly three years, from 2011 through 2014, and included his tenure as General Assembly head.

Ng and his assistant, also named in the indictment, were already being held by federal authorities, accused of lying about plans for $4.5m in cash brought into the US over several years aboard private jets. It wasn't immediately clear if prosecutors believe any of the money was used in the Antigua bribery scheme. According to court documents, he used his position to push the UN to promote a conference centre in Macau being developed by Ng.

Prosecutors say some of the bribe money was used to pay for Ashe's family vacation and to construct a basketball court at his home in Dobbs Ferry, New York. He opened two bank accounts to receive the funds and then under-reported his income by more than $1.2m, officials said.

Ashe was arrested on Tuesday and is being held. No-one answered a phone call to the mission for Antigua and he is no longer listed in the UN directory. A message left with a representative for the General Assembly wasn't immediately returned.

In all, six people, including another diplomat, Francis Lorenzo from the Dominican Republic, were ensnared in the probe. A message was left at his mission.

The other two were involved with Ng, prosecutors said. They were identified as Sheri Yan and Heidi Park, both naturalised US citizens who reside in China and helped facilitate the scheme, prosecutors said. 

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