US authorities on Tuesday charged a former president of the United Nations General Assembly, a Macau real-estate mogul and four others for an alleged bribery scheme.
John Ashe, a former ambassador to the UN for Antigua and Barbuda who led the UN’s 68th General Assembly in 2013, was accused of accepting more than US$1 million in bribes from Chinese businessmen, including Macau property developer Ng Lap Seng, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The bribes were allegedly taken in exchange for advancing the interests of the businessmen, including support for a planned UN conference center in Macau, the report said, citing a complaint filed at a federal court in New York.
Besides Ashe and Ng, a deputy UN representative and two employees of a nonprofit organization based in New York City were also arrested and charged in connection with the alleged scheme.
The complaint alleges that Ashe shared a portion of the bribes with unnamed senior Antiguan government officials, including the country’s then-prime minister.
The alleged offenses took place between 2011 and 2014, according to the complaint.
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, who announced the arrests of Ashe and the other defendants, said the probe could result in more charges as authorities examine whether “corruption is business as usual at the United Nations”.
“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,” Reuters cited Bharara as saying.
According to the complaint, Ng, through intermediaries, paid Ashe more than US$500,000 for telling the UN secretary general that a multibillion-dollar UN-sponsored conference center is needed in Macau.
Ashe is also said to have received more than US$800,000 from Chinese businessmen to support their interests within the UN and Antigua.
Ng and an assistant were detained in the US last month for bringing in millions of dollars into the US under false claims.
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