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UN Bribery Investigation Ropes in Former General Assembly Leader

U.S. authorities have charged six people in connection with an alleged bribery scheme at the UN, including a former head of the General Assembly. The bribes were for real estate developments in Macau, a peninsula in mainland China.

Authorities charged former UN General Assembly President John Ashe “with receiving about $1.2m in bribes from a Macau real estate mogul.” They claim he received these bribes “in exchange for advancing their interests in the U.N., including support for a U.N. conference center” in the peninsula.

USA Today reports:

In exchange for the payments, Ashe allegedly submitted a document to the U.N. Secretary General’s office showing a need for the conference center. He also shared a portion of the payments with senior officials of Antigua, including the country’s then-prime minister, the court complaint charged.

The suspects channeled and concealed the alleged bribes by using U.S.-based non-governmental organizations purportedly established to promote the U.N.’s official mission and development goals, the complaint charged.

The former UN president also used the money to take his family on a vacation and build a basketball court at his home. The complaint states the money paid off the mortgage on the home.

Francis Lorenzo, the deputy permanent representative to the UN from the Dominican Republic, was charged as well. Ng Lap Seng, the man in charge of a real estate company in Macau, used Lorenzo as a tie-in to Ashe. As a reward, Ng provided Lorenzo with a $20,000 monthly salary.

“If proven, today’s charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well,” stated Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “As alleged, for Rolexes, bespoke suits, and a private basketball court, John Ashe, the 68th President of the UN General Assembly, sold himself and the global institution he led. United in greed, the defendants allegedly formed a corrupt alliance of business and government, converting the UN into a platform for profit.”

Officials arrested Ng and his assistant Jeff C. Yin on September 19. They charged them with “lying about the purpose of more than $4.5 million in cash they allegedly have brought to the U.S. since 2013.” From The Wall Street Journal:

The others charged Tuesday were Shiwei Yan, also known as Sheri Yan, and Heidi Hong Piao, also known as Heidi Park, whom prosecutors say were the CEO and finance director, respectively, of a non-governmental organization based in New York City.

The complaint alleges that the defendants used non-governmental organizations in the U.S., “which were purportedly established to promote the UN’s mission” and development goals, to conceal their bribes.

The investigation showed numerous connections between Ashe, Lorenzo, and Ng. For example, Lorenzo is the president of Ng’s Sun Kiap Ip Group Foundation while Ashe served as co-chairman.

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