Date
18 December 2017
John Ashe, a former UN General Assembly president and UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, leaves the Manhattan US District Courthouse in New York. Photo: Reuters
John Ashe, a former UN General Assembly president and UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, leaves the Manhattan US District Courthouse in New York. Photo: Reuters

UN-focused news outlet linked to Macau bribery case hits back

A United Nations-focused news outlet is hitting back after coming under review over US claims of bribery to a former General Assembly president.

South-South News defended its reputation in an open letter on its website, saying it “has been tainted by some unscrupulous acts”.

The letter came a month after Francis Lorenzo, a suspended deputy United Nations ambassador from the Dominican Republic and South-South News’ former president, pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme, Reuters reports.

Lorenzo is one of seven people charged since October for engaging in a scheme to pay US$1.3 million in bribes to John Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was UN General Assembly president from 2013 to 2014.

Prosecutors alleged that Lorenzo facilitated bribe payments to Ashe from Ng Lap Seng, a billionaire real estate developer in Macau who authorities say funded South-South News and who was seeking to build a UN-sponsored conference center in Macau.

Following Lorenzo’s plea and agreement to cooperate with prosecutors, authorities last month arrested Julia Vivi Wang, who had been the vice president of South-South News, in connection with the bribery investigation.

While South-South News itself has not been charged in the case, prosecutors have alleged that it was used as a conduit for bribes.

In light of the charges, the UN has been reviewing South-South News’ accreditation status, a process Stephane Dujarric, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman, on Monday told reporters was still ongoing.

In its open letter, South-South said it continues to operate normally and called Lorenzo’s actions “irresponsible and illegal”.

“Many media and administrative professionals have proudly worked for South-South News and can attest to the integrity of our media operation,” it said.

It criticized as “unprofessional” the extent some journalists outside of its organization were “attacking everything and anyone they believe is linked to this case,” affecting the work of many “innocent people.”

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